Gannon University Students Spend Spring Break Giving Back

Posted: March 25, 2016

Eight students from Gannon University, which has campuses in Ruskin, Fla. and Erie, Pa., elected to spend their spring break working in the Ruskin community on one of Gannon's 11 Alternative Break Service Trips (ABST). The participants made the Ruskin campus their home base, eating, sleeping and showering during their week of service.

Accompanied by two staff members from the Pennsylvania campus, the students worked with the Miracles Outreach Community Development Center, Inc. in Ruskin. Miracles Outreach works with runaway youth that are victims of sex trafficking and physical abuse.

The ten representatives of Gannon also traveled to the San Jose Mission, a ministry of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The mission is known for providing housing for 120 families of migrant agricultural laborers, but also offers services such as a free health clinic and assistance with issues involving immigration. Some Gannon students cleaned and organized the health clinic while others raked and performed maintenance on the grounds.

The group also visited a shelter for victims of domestic violence where they did yard work, planted vegetables in the garden, pulled weeds, painted benches and taught some of the shelter's children to plant onions. During the evening part of the visit, half the group did arts and crafts activities with the children while the other half did a guided meditation activity with the shelter's women as a way to cultivate and affirm their confidence and self-esteem.

There was also a bit of time for the group to visit historic Ybor City and to spend some time at the ocean.

But the emphasis on the ABST, as always, was service and changing lives-the lives of the Gannon delegation as well as the people they served.

Writing in a blog that chronicled the ABST, Megan Alexander, a Gannon student, said. "Leaving that shelter today left me changed in a way that is hard to describe. I hope to be able to take what I learned today, return to my community, and reach out to those in need. I am telling you all it takes is time, and a heart opening to listening."