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Bobcat Break constructs active citizens

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The Bobcat Break volunteers group photo for the 'Building Joy' program
The Bobcat Break volunteers for the 'Building Joy' program take a break from construction to commemorate their work with Habitat for Humanity in New Mexico.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Todd.

As spring-breakers across Texas geared up for sunshine and relaxation, others prepared to donate their time-off to those in need.

Student Volunteer Connection provides an opportunity for students to travel to a direct location and engage in active citizenship through their Bobcat Break program. Through volunteer work and reflection in group activities, students delve into the specifics about a selected cause or issue. Students emerge equipped with the skills to assist their local community in meeting its needs.

Participants are allowed to select a social issue they are passionate about and are then put into a group that focuses on that cause. Two groups attended separate week-long trips during spring break. From March 11-18 the group ‘#nobounderies’ went to Houston and worked with children in the MD Anderson Hospital. The other group, ‘Building Joy’, assisted a homeless shelter and Habitat for Humanity in New Mexico.

Alexander Taylor, finance senior,FC’d participated in his fourth Bobcat Break trip this spring. Taylor said in the past he assisted in rebuilding a hiking trail in Tennessee, helped a homeless shelter provide more efficient services and restored a home for a family displaced by flooding.

Taylor said he felt called to devote his time to community service after suffering from financial hardships growing up. He said there was a period of time where his family was homeless- living in hotel rooms and then a homeless shelter for a couple of months.

“It was a very humbling experience going through those hardships,” Taylor said. “I realized not everyone has certain privileges and some people need help getting through that.”

Taylor said he wants to take every opportunity he can to give back because he doesn’t want anyone else to experience the same adversities he did.

Sarah Todd, site leader and nursing sophomore, headed Taylor’s group as they traveled to New Mexico to assist the homeless community.

Todd’s group’s social issue this year was housing and homelessness. They first worked in Santa Fe to assist Habitat for Humanity build houses for those in need. Later in the week they traveled to Albuquerque to work with Joy Junction Homeless Shelter in order to make the homeless shelter look less like a shelter and more like a home.

Todd enjoyed that they were able to witness this issue through two different perspectives in working with two different organizations.

“The leader of Joy Junction tended to look at these homeless people like they were prisoners,” Todd said. “I hope we changed that by the way we showed that community love through our actions.”

Todd said Habitat for Humanity tended to be more caring about the people it was helping. She said the organizations really took time to know the individuals personally while assisting them.

“We were able to see how their interaction with the community made a difference in how they served,” Todd said. “It taught us what to do and what not to do.

Jonathon Adams, Student Volunteer Connection president and geography senior, said all the site leaders are new and he has seen how hard they have worked to perfect their trips.

“The fact that they got to see (the projects) they’ve been planning since May come to (fruition) is really exciting,” Adams said.

Taylor said it is important for students to know there are more ways to help those in need rather than just giving monetary donations.

“We may not have money but we have strength,” Taylor said. “We have physical ability to plant a garden or rebuild a home.”

Taylor said he knows he will always carry the knowledge he has gained from his Bobcat Break experiences with him throughout his life and plans to utilize it and give back to his community any chance he gets.

“I will be giving back to my community in one way or another for the rest of my life,” Taylor said.