In answer to the age-old question ‘what did you do on your spring break?’ a group of Keuka College students will not reply with an answer you’d expect them too.
That’s because these students traded bathing suits for paint brushes, flip flops for feather dusters, and sunscreen for visiting orphans and senior citizens as part of the College’s sixth annual Alternative Spring Break.
Alternative Spring Break provides students an opportunity to give to others as well as experience personal reflection, growth, and fun along the way. The annual Alternative Spring Break trip serves as a tool for letting Keuka College students become more familiar with the world, introduce them to experiences they have never had, and exemplify the College’s vision and mission.
This group of Keuka College students traveled to Quesada, Costa Rica March 19-26, and while the temperatures average 86 degrees in March, the students are not working on their suntans; they were simply working—hard.
Hosted by Mary Curtiss Miller ’49 and her husband Ralph, and led by Rev. Eric Detar, Keuka College chaplain and director of the Center for Spiritual Life, and Tim White, assistant director of residential life and director of the Success Advocates. The Millers have been missionaries in Costa Rica for more than 50 years.
“This is our second trip seeing the beautiful country of Costa Rica,” said Detar. “We will spend time at an orphanage and a senior living center, clean and paint at a Christian school, and attend a worship service in Spanish. Costa Rica is very refreshing; yet personally and spiritually challenging.”
Junior Kathryn Standinger, an occupational science major from Candor, and Sean Boutin, a senior criminology major from Purling, agree.
Standinger hopes to experience a culture “that is different from our own in so many ways,” while Boutin views this trip as having the ability “to learn about religious beliefs that may be dissimilar to my own.”
“I see this trip challenging me spiritually,” added Standinger, “because it’s going to require a lot of hard work and patience, and it may be harder to communicate with the people who we will be working with. But I’m really looking forward to it.”
For junior Emily Scholl, an occupational science major from Saugerties, the trip provides the chance to “experience meaningful connections, learn from one another, and learn more about myself through our service work in Costa Rica” that she looks most forward to. “I hope to further identify and explore the spiritual aspects throughout what we do.”
Emily Pidgeon, who went on the Alternative Spring Break trip last year, is excited to see the changes in the boys living at the orphanage.
“I think the biggest challenge will be saying goodbye at the end of the trip, knowing that I am graduating and this opportunity may not arise again,” said the senior social work major from Onenota.
Freshman JuneAnn Chadima, a Grand Island resident and occupational science major, is anxious to “offer my service to people that need us. I think the language difference is going to be challenging, but I am excited for this trip. I can’t wait to help other people and see what it is like in a different part of the world.”
While the students will not be tourists, they will be able to explore the country through activities such as speeding down a zip line, going horseback riding, and swimming in the hot springs of Arenal Volcano.
Other students participating include: Caitlin Jones, a junior clinical science major from Weedsport; Scott Thielman, a senior sociology major from Amherst; Megan Hall, a junior exploratory major from Scottsville; Roland Trajano, a sophomore occupational science major from Westlake Village, Calif.; and Francisco Rodriguez, a senior sociology major from New York City. Xang Song Yang, international student advisor, also participated in the trip.
Painting fences on a farm that teaches farming skills to men rehabilitating from drugs and alcohol doesn’t sound like a typical activity for college students on spring break.
Neither does working at a home for boys, from 8-18 years old, teaching them English and playing volleyball, basketball, Frisbee, and soccer with them.
But that is just what a dozen Keuka College students will do as part of the College’s annual Alternative Spring Break when they travel to Quesada, Costa Rica March 20-27. These students will not be working on their suntans. They will simply be working—hard.
Hosted by Mary Curtiss Miller ’53 and her husband Ralph, and led by Rev. Eric Detar, Keuka College chaplain and director of the Center for Spiritual Life, and Tim White, assistant director of residential life and director of the Success Advocates, the students are part of Alternative Spring Break’s first international edition. The Millers have been missionaries in Costa Rica for more than 50 years.
“When Tim and I first began leading Alternative Spring Break trips four years ago, they were seemingly random, but we always found someone, and some way, to help,” said Detar. “We are beginning to become more strategic in our trips, and we want to offer four unique experiences throughout a student’s years at Keuka College. We hope to offer trips in an urban setting, an environmental setting, a rural setting, and an international trip. During each trip, we will look at culture, stewardship, and poverty of each area we visit.”
Junior Faith Garlington is particularly excited about working at the home for boys.
“As an occupational science major, I am interested to see the differences between how the boys play as to how kids in America play,” said Garlington, a Boonville resident. “I want to see how and when they reach their milestones in a culture that is different from mine. I am excited to connect what I have learned in the classroom with what I will see.”
Katie Crossley, a sophomore unified early childhood education major from Panama, N.Y. chose to participate in Alternative Spring Break because she believes she felt “a calling to go and is exactly where I am supposed to be in my life right now,” while Bloomfield resident Jeff Miller says he wants to reorient himself.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in your own world and forget that we are more fortunate than a lot of others in the world,” said the junior occupational science major. “I am grateful for what I have.”
For Lindsay Holmes, a senior occupational science major from West Henrietta, this is her second Alternative Spring Break trip.
“I went on the trip to Washington, DC last year, and experienced the culture of the homeless; it was eye-opening,” she said. “I think this will be similar, but on a larger scale.”
Emily Grecco, a sophomore psychology major from Waverly and Haley Jordan, a junior occupational science major from Auburn, agree that participating in Alternative Spring Break will be a reality check.
“I will be helping people with something they need, and not just be on another vacation where I am a tourist,” said Grecco.
“It’s easy to think that that one person can’t have much of an impact, but we’ve seen from past trips that it’s not true. I am so glad that I will not be a tourist and that I will get to interact with the people on a greater level,” said White.
While the students will not be tourists, they will be able to explore the country through activities such as speeding down a zip line, go horseback riding, swimming in the hot springs of Arenal Volcano, and visiting Sarchi, a quaint painted oxcart village. The group will also participate in worship services at a Methodist Church.
Other students participating include: Emily Pidgeon, a junior social work major from Oneonta; Rachel Guthrie, a junior child and family studies major from North Rose; Ashley Terry, a sophomore political science and history major from Andes; Emily Black, a sophomore political science and history major from Athens, Pa.; Jenny Schafer, a junior occupational science major from Fayetteville; and Patricia Wallace, a senior occupational science major from Bath.
Vanessa Coy was “devastated” when she learned about the powerful typhoon that struck her native Philippines last week.
Her first concern was for her relatives—aunts, uncles, and others—who lived in towns and cities that felt the brutal force of Typhoon Haiyan, which brought sustained 147 mile-per-hour winds, 45-foot waves, and more than 15 inches of rain to some areas.
“Everyone is OK,” said Coy, a senior adolescent education major from Wellsville who came to the United States at a young age.
Coy was born in Olangapo City, a city located in the province of Zambales, northwest of the Philippine capital of Manila.
“My relatives in Zambales were not hit, but my family in Manila was,” said Coy. “I recently found out they lost their beach homes, farm animals, everything. They are relying on U.S. troops to supply first aid, food, and water.”
That information came from a cousin in Japan, according to Coy.
“We have not been able to get through [to our relatives],” said Coy, who last visited the Philippines in 2012. “We have sent money, but don’t know if they received it.”
Officials estimate that at least 4,200 people were killed and three million displaced. Nearly 500,000 homes were damaged.
The Center for Spiritual Life is leading a Keuka College drive to raise funds for the Philippines through ShelterBox USA (http://shelterboxusa.org). ShelterBox is an international organization that “responds instantly after natural and other disasters by delivering boxes of aid to those who need it most. Each ShelterBox supplies an extended family with a tent and essential equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless.”
A complete box costs $1,000 “but we will donate whatever funds we raise,” said Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain.
Donations (cash or check) may be dropped off in the Center for Spiritual Life (Dahlstrom 13). Checks should be made payable to “Keuka College” (indicate Shelter Box – Philippines in the memo line).
“In the past, our community has come together to support those around the world who have been devastated through natural disasters,” said Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain. “We responded when the earthquake crippled Haiti and the tsunami hit Japan. Today, we have the opportunity to come alongside the people of the Philippines, who were hit so hard by Typhoon Haiyan.”
Coy is appreciative of the College’s ShelterBox initiative and said there is one other thing people can do to help.
“The Filipino people have a very religious background,” she explained, ”and they need every prayer they can get because it is going to take years to rebuild the country.”
Jamaica, Miami, South Padre Island, and Puerto Vallarta are among the Travel Channel’s Top 12 spring break destinations for college students this year.
A destination notably missing is Washington, D.C., probably due to its lack of palm trees and white sand beaches.
But a dozen Keuka College students, who chose to swap suntans for shovels, will travel to the nation’s capital April 1-6 to spend spring break helping those in need. The students, along with Eric Detar, College chaplain, and Tim White, resident director for Blyley and Harrington Halls and a retention counselor, are participating in Keuka College’s annual Alternative Spring Break.
The Keuka team will work with the Center for Student Missions (CSM), which provides urban missions and service experiences for youth, adult, and family groups.
While working in Washington, the Keuka students will prepare and serve breakfast and lunch to the homeless, assist with an after-school program for elementary school children, help with the construction and renovation of a church, and assist at a senior center day care program.
“Right now, we just know each other by name and maybe a couple of other things,” said Detar. “The students who choose to take Alternative Spring Break trips will have a unique shared group experience that no one else will have. By the end of this trip, each of us will be much more than just a face around campus.”
Courtney Ray, a junior social work major from Cato, believes the trip will be an eye-opening experience.
“As a social work major, I anticipate working with the kind of people I will work with in my career,” she said.
Kaysie Burnett, a junior education major from Shortsville, wanted to go on the Alternative Spring Break “because I have never been to Washington, D.C., and thought a service trip would be a good way to spend spring break.”
And while participating in a mission trip may be new to Burnett, helping others is in Nina Fusco’s blood. The freshman occupational science major has been practicing social responsibility through her church since she was 13. But since her church closed several months ago, the Mechanicsville resident has been looking for a service project. So, when she heard about the Alternative Spring Break trip, Fusco jumped at the chance.
“Participating in this trip lets me continue doing something I love to do, and I am looking forward to going,” said Fusco.
So are Penn Yan resident Alicia Parkhurst, who is pursuing her master’s degree in education, and junior Francesca Spina.
Two years ago, Spina, an adolescent social studies major, worked with nine other students at Franciscans for the Poor in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the 2011 edition of Alternative Spring Break.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it changed my perspective on my life,” said the Rochester resident. “It made me realize how blessed I am and how much I can give to others in need. That is way I want to go to Washington and help again.”
After the students have performed the day’s work, they will have an opportunity for reflection at the Douglas Memorial Methodist Church, and enjoy dinners at ethnic restaurants. Also planned are visits to the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
White expects the Keuka group to be impacted by what they see and do while in Washington.
“The work we will do has been going on for a long time, and will continue after we leave,” said White. “We will get a snapshot of what people do every day to help those who need it most. What we get from this trip will be far more that what we give.”
Other students participating in Alternative Spring Break include: Robby Magee, a senior adolescent social studies/special education major from Fairport; Megan Russo, a freshman psychology major from Ceaderville, N.J.; Mattie Waldstein, a senior education studies major from Needham, Mass.; Patricia Wallace, a junior occupational science major from Bath; Lindsay Holmes, a junior occupational science major from West Henrietta; Sean Boutin, a sophomore criminology/criminal justice major from Purling; and Niki Chase, a junior social work major from Oneonta.
Meditating in silence with palms facing upward and eyes closed would seem a practice reserved for monks.
And while Keuka College has played host to the Venerable Lama Tenzin Yignyen, an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk, meditation can also fit into the lives of Keuka students, faculty and staff.
So says Nicole Hunt, mindfulness meditation instructor, who will begin weekly meditation sessions Tuesday, Feb. 12. The program is cosponsored by the Center for Spiritual Life (CSL) and Academic Success at Keuka (ASK).
Hunt wanted to bring meditation to the College to show students how to focus their attention.
“You have the power to choose where you want your attention to go and sometimes we don’t understand that,” explained Hunt, who also teaches tai chi classes at the College. “I want to show the College community how to focus its attention on the positive things in their lives and not so much on the negative things. I want to teach the community to respond more and react less.”
Mindful meditation is a research-based form of meditation derived from a 2,500-year-old Buddhist practice. A secular technique for enhancing positive life skills, mindful meditation has been shown to reduce stress, develop balance and prioritization, and increase the effectiveness of interpersonal and intrapersonal activities, among other benefits.
College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar says the CSL is interested in the success of students in their academic, spiritual, and personal lives.
“Meditation has been growing in popularity across campuses nationwide, and by offering meditation at Keuka, we have another opportunity to help students succeed,” he said.
And that is music to the ears of Jeffrey Carter, academic skills counselor for ASK and an adjunct instructor in the Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP).
“The primary focus of ASK is retention through academic support, and we see meditation as another retention tool for our students,” said Carter. “Meditation sessions at Keuka are needed because students experience stress and can have scattered thoughts. Meditation can help reduce these while developing more positive life skills.”
“I have always had a deep interest in understanding the mind-body connection,” said Hunt. “Through meditation, we learn to quiet the cognitive mind and awaken our feeling-awareness for the present moment. It is here that intuition and embodied learning can take place.”
Detar says the College is “fortunate to have Nicole,” while Carter hopes the skills Hunt will teach “are such that students can expect a greater focus in their lives, which may translate into better grades.”
“We hope that if a student runs into a conflict with a roommate, the meditation sessions they attended will remind them to stop for a minute, collect their thoughts, and proceed to resolve the conflict,” said Detar. “Meditation can also be useful for those who may have test anxiety and let them breathe, focus, and maybe have a more productive test time.”
Hunt has been practicing movement-based meditation techniques, including tai chi, qigong, and yoga, for more than 10 years, and is in her fourth year teaching mindfulness-based movement techniques at Finger Lakes Community College.
Meditation sessions will be held every Tuesday at 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the Norton Chapel meditation room.
For more information, contact Hunt at [email protected]