Service Trips Allow Wheeling Jesuit Student to Live the Mission

  WJU Communications
  Friday, February 9, 2018 12:18 PM
  Service, WJU News

Wheeling, WV

Christmas break is usually a time when college students spend relaxing after a long semester of classes, studying and exams. However, three groups of Wheeling Jesuit students and staffers spent a portion of their holiday break serving others in El Salvador, New Orleans and Pittsburgh.

Wheeling Jesuit University’s mission calls its students to be men and women in service to others. According to Colleen Ryan Mayrand, director of the Service for Social Action Center, these groups of WJU student were shining examples of the university’s mission this holiday season – giving back to help those less fortunate.wju-service-2-web.jpg

“Service immersion trips are an important part of the WJU experience, because they create opportunities for students to step outside of their everyday life and encounter people different from themselves. Immersions give students the chance to give back, while also learning more about the world and themselves. These experiences encourage students to ask questions, and to see how they too can become a force for change in their own communities. These service immersion experiences are a key way we form our students in the Wheeling Jesuit mission to become men and women who are with and for others,” Ryan Mayrand explained.

Mayrand along with 12 WJU students traveled to El Salvador from Dec. 30 to Jan. 7 on a ‘service pilgrimage.’ The students not only helped villagers in small communities near San Salvador, the trip was also an opportunity to learn about the six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter who were killed on the campus of the Jesuit University of Central America in 1989.

Through Faith in Action Together, a mission of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart, the Wheeling Jesuit students donned hammers and other tools to help build homes for single moms and spend time doing activities with young people at an orphanage.

Senior Genesis Ramirez said the trip was a chance to learn about her heritage. Ramirez said her father was born in El Salvador, so the trip “was an opportunity for me to be able to learn more about the country and to visit my cousin who I have not seen since 2004.”wju-service-1-web.jpg

“It was hard to spend another holiday away from my family, but the love of our group was very warming,” said the Los Angeles native. The trip, she explained, was educational, as well as inspirational.

“For me, service trips ground me and help me appreciate the opportunities I have just because I was born in the United States. I leave service trips feeling fuller with love, knowledge and experiences. The trip gave me the opportunity to immerse in the culture,” she added.

Senior Arrupe Scholar, Kailee Latocha of Fairmont said this was the service trip she had been looking forward to and preparing for since being accepted into the scholars program as a freshman. This was her first service trip outside of the United States.

“We worked in the beautiful little village Las Delicias. At our worksite we were cutting grass with machetes and prepared foundations for homes to be built for single mothers in the community. Additionally, we played with the children of the village. My favorite part was learning new ways to communicate with the children through our language barrier. Even though we did not speak the same language, the love and gratitude was easily communicated,” Latocha said.

The experience, she said made an impact on her. “I will no longer take the little things for granted, like toilet paper or being able to walk alone safely at night. I will not spend my time worrying about trivial things; rather, I will spend more time creating valuable relationships and loving those around me. I will take the time to see the beauty in the simple things. The Salvadoran people have so much less than we can ever imagine, yet they have so much love. They focus on the important things like love, joy and family,” Latocha explained. 

Prior to Christmas, Mayrand lead a group of seven WJU students to New Orleans where they spent a week building and renovating homes through the Youth Rebuilding of New Orleans.

“This is a city with an image related to Mardi Gras, but we showed our students a different side – one that is still recovering,” Mayrand explained.

Junior Faith-Cailaa Harris of Detroit said, “This trip was a lot different than any other immersion I've been on, because it reminded me of home and all the things that need to be addressed. A lot of the problems that New Orleans is facing are very similar to those in Detroit. This trip allowed me to see that, even if I am young by many people's standards, I can make a difference in my community, because I've seen the impact a few like-minded people can make on a community, especially if they are passionate about the issues they would like to combat. 

Senior Dalton Rollison of Crooksville, Ohio decided to go on the New Orleans service trip because it was a great opportunity to give back to the community and “to embody the Wheeling Jesuit mission of being a man for others.”

Rollison said the trip allowed him to learn about the culture and history of Louisiana and New Orleans.

“Something I took away from the experience is the feeling you get when you know that you made a difference -- when you work towards something that is going to make the world a better place it provides a feeling of love and compassion for what you do and it inspires you to want to do more,” he said. 

“This experience allowed me to step outside the image of the world that I was accustomed to, and to see the world through the perspective of other people. It has changed me in the way that now when I speak to others and see others, I understand that the surface is very minuscule in defining the entirety of a person, and in order to truly get to know someone you should listen to what they have to say with an open heart.”

The Pittsburgh Plunge is a two-day immersion experience into the city of Pittsburgh. The trip, held Dec. 10-13 was planned in partnership with Dan Haller, WJU class of 1960, and Kevin Hayes a Notre Dame alumnus.

During the trip, eight WJU students spent time with various non-profits in the city to see how the organizations address needs of the community, including Focus Pittsburgh, a ministry run by WJU alumnus Rev. Paul Abernathy. Students had the chance to hear Abernathy’s story and visit his ministry.

In addition, Students stayed overnight at a homeless shelter and spent two days reflecting on various justice issues.

Leading the group was Jonathan Barrett, Student Life activities coordinator. He was accompanied by eight students Jonathan Haley, Cameron Smith, Ashley Trouten, Juan Pablo Troconis Bello, Kaitlyn Workman, Karly Judy, Jackie Cramer and Taylor Diperna.

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