Junior Stephanie Slabach Brubaker, sophomore Madalynn Payne, and first-year Larissa Graber work together on painting trim pieces at the Harmon house in Lafayette, Louisiana. The three Eastern Mennonite University students joined a Y-Serve trip over spring break to help repair damaged homes. (Photo courtesy of Luis Longo)

Spring break Y-Trips immerse students in history and service

Eastern Mennonite University students participated in four Y-Trips over spring break March 4-12. The trips were sponsored by Y-Serve (formerly known as Young People’s Christian Association), a program of EMU Campus Ministries. Y-Serve/YPCA is EMU’s longest running student organization [learn more about its history and the name change here].

Here’s a wrap-up from two groups. Be sure to check out the photo album below as well.

Civil Rights Tour

The second annual Civil Rights Tour brought 10 travelers into the heart of the American South, with the highlight being present at the 52nd anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River in Selma, said co-leader and Black Student Union co-president Oksana Kittrell.

Tae Dews (left), with Oksana Kittrell and advisor Celeste Thomas (right) led a tour of significant sites in the civil rights history of the United States. (Photos contributed by Nzar Sharif.)

“We were able to attend a rally in Montgomery Alabama about voting rights and we met the daughter of white civil rights martyr Viola Lizzuo, as well as march participant Joanne Bland.”

Kittrell recounted that Bland told the group, “We did not go out there expecting to make history. We went out there expecting to make things right.”

One personal learning from the trip, she said, was that “you should always stand up for what is right. The things that may seem small could make a big impact one day on an entire people simply because you chose to stand up for what is right.”

This is the second year that Kittrell has joined the tour, along with BSU co-president Tae Dews and advisor Celeste Thomas. They were joined by Cameron White, Nzar Sharif, Shirley Steward- Jones, Rebecca Cardwell, Thabita Kalunga, Keyri Lopez-Godoy and Fibi Souleymane.

The tour visited

  •                Atlanta, Georgia: Ebenezer Baptist Church and Martin Luther King Jr. sights;
  •                Montgomery, Alabama: the Southern Poverty Law Center and Rosa Parks Museum;
  •                Selma, Alabama: Brown Chapel AME Church, Pettus Bridge and the Selma Interpretative Center;
  •                Birmingham, Alabama: Kelly Ingram Park;
  •                Tuskegee: Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center, Carver Museum.

Mennonite Disaster Services: Lafayette, Louisiana

The 11 members pose on a landmark tree at Our Savior’s Church in Lafayette, Louisiana — the home site for Mennonite Disaster Services operations. From left to right: Stephanie Slabach Brubaker, Andrew Troyer, Allie Sawyer, Karina Pidroutchniak, Andrew Reimer-Berg, Andrew Peltier, Bekah Mongold, Madalynn Payne, Larissa Graber, Harrison Horst, and Luis Longo. Photo Courtesy: Bekah Mongold.

Harrison Horst and Andrew Troyer led this group on a marathon road trip to Louisiana, where the group volunteered with recovery efforts related to the August 2016 flood. Larissa Graber recounted her diverse service work: I removed a door, reconstructed a wall in its place, removed and replaced old wood panelling on walls, washed and painted walls, painted trim, cut trim and base board and installed it into the house and scrubbed a kitchen to get rid of dust, grease, and suspicious grime.

Luis Longo, on the other end of the spectrum, teamed with Horst and a group leader to work for three days on replacing floor boards in a home and on placing some doors.

He enjoyed the comraderie of completing tasks together and traveling for long hours.

Graber said she enjoyed building relationships with people she didn’t know well. “Each of us had very different experiences while working, but we each shared the experience of getting acquainted with, or further connecting with our fellow classmates from EMU,” she said. The experience has prompted her to consider voluntary service after graduation.

Sharing With Appalachian People: Elkhorn, West Virginia

This trip was led by Grayson Mast and Abe Hartzler. They were joined by Jack Hummel, Lydia Haggard, Rachel Breidigan, Ariel Barbosa and Abigail Shelly.

Laurelville Mennonite Retreat: Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania

Leaders Alexa Weeks and Sarah Jennings were joined by Hannah Schultz and Kate Kauffman.


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