Students give up spring break for NWI projects
By Amy LAvalley Post-Tribune correspondent March 14, 2011 12:40PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
VALPARAISO — College students probably don’t list Northwest Indiana as a hot destination for spring break.
But college students from the University of Louisville in Kentucky and the University of Iowa in Iowa City are spending their time off from school doing community projects in the region instead of heading south for beaches and parties.
On Monday, 13 students from the University of Louisville tackled an assortment of projects for Housing Opportunities, including clean-up and painting at Spring Valley homeless shelter and painting at a transitional housing apartment.
The students will continue their work in Valparaiso today before taking a day off for sightseeing in Chicago, and then will head to Gary on Thursday for projects at two food pantries.
Taking a break from clearing old mattresses and other items from apartments at Spring Valley, Judd Johnson, a senior at Louisville, said traditional spring breaks are “not so much my scene.”
Instead, he’s spent the past few years volunteering in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
As work there wound down, ministers from the Interfaith Center in Louisville started looking for other projects for the alternative spring break. Curtis Peters, the Lutheran campus minister with the center, graduated from Valparaiso University and has connections in the area.
He knew Gary could use some assistance and, through the United Way Regional Volunteer Center, found out about the projects in Valparaiso. The volunteer center also coordinated work at the Boys & Girls Clubs in Valparaiso over the weekend by students from the University of Iowa.
The Louisville contingent is staying at Trinity Lutheran Church in Crown Point. This is the sixth year students from the campus have taken part in an alternative spring break.
As Housing Opportunities readies Spring Valley to accept more clients, the students’ work was much appreciated.
“We don’t have all of these apartments ready,” said Kathleen McClure, fund developer with Housing Opportunities. “They’re giving up their spring break to work, which is amazing.”
Brad Black, a senior at Louisville, hasn’t done a service project like the one here since he was in high school, and thought he would step up to the challenge. He’s done the typical spring break scene, too.
“Just doing this for one day is ultimately more rewarding than cramming myself in a hotel room with 20 other people,” he said.