Nine SJC Long Island students visited New Orleans this month to work with nonprofits for a service-based Mission Trip (formally known as Alternative Winter Break).
Accompanied by Director of Campus Ministry Cristian Murphy, the students spent part of their winter break, Jan. 5–11, helping to organize a community center and a storage unit, volunteering in a food pantry, working with the disabled and doing gardening work. When the work day was over, they had an opportunity to explore the city and embrace the culture of New Orleans.
“I’ve always felt like my purpose in life is to help those in need,” said Thomas Lownds ’21, a therapeutic recreation major who started volunteering when he was just 10 years old. “When you’re not working, you get to hear so many fascinating stories about the people you’re helping. I also volunteer to help with my self-growth and faith.”
Helping Others, Helping Yourself
Taylor Fields, a senior majoring in psychology, realized the significance of helping others while in high school.
“Many times, people do things in order to receive something,” Fields, 21, said. “I think it is super important to do things for an emotional reward rather than a physical reward. Throughout the trip, we accomplished so much as a team. Each day, we did little things that made huge differences in the community.”
As members of Students Taking an Active Role in Society (STARS), Fields and Lownds help with several community service efforts throughout the school year. The Mission Trip is particularly special because it offers a chance to travel nationally with the College for service.
“It was really nice to enjoy the warm weather during this time of year,” Fields said. “Having the opportunity to work while being out in the sun kept the environment a positive one.”
Making a Difference Across the Nation
Freshman Anayeli Gochez appreciated the opportunity to travel to New Orleans.
“It’s the service rendered that makes me feel good about myself — that I am able to help others in need,” the nursing major said. “I am able to make an impact in another person’s life; that, to me, means the world.”
Accounting major Michelle Wilcox, 33, said she had never participated in a volunteer effort like the Mission Trip before.
“Everyone attending from SJC … are some of the most genuine and wholesome individuals that I’ve had the opportunity to connect with,” Wilcox said. “With the crazy world we live in today, it was so refreshing to have a daily opportunity to reflect on the experience we were having while volunteering in New Orleans.”
Murphy, a graduate of SJC Long Island who participated in several service-based trips as a student, knows the importance of the students’ work.
“The work we did was designed to help these nonprofits run efficiently and see how they impact the community in creative ways,” he said. “All of the work days were spent with organizations that are in great need of volunteer help in order to keep their doors open.”