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How I Spent My (Spring) Vacation

March 2010

Showing off those hammer-swinging muscles, Shelby Smith was just one of 17 students who traveled to sunny Beaumont, Texas, during spring break. But according to St. Ambrose Habitat for Humanity's Laura Siddall, who led the campus group, it wasn't about "fun in the sun," but making life better for a family in need.

"The St. Ambrose campus chapter works to alleviate the plight of impoverished individuals and families and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action," says Laura. And that's just what they did during their "Collegiate College" spring break trip.

The Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge alternative break program offers groups of students the opportunity to spend a week helping to eliminate poverty housing. This was the fourth year Ambrose students participated in the Collegiate Challenge program.

The build's site supervisors Robert and Chip, affectionately dubbed "Bacon" by the students, led the Ambrose group in sheathing (putting up a layer of boards or wood to the outer studs, joists and rafters) and setting roof trusses. While both left the students tired and a bit sore, they were satisfying jobs. "We could really see the progress we were making," Laura says.

"There was more to the trip than swinging hammers," says Laura. "We had reflection every night in order for participants to think about the meaning behind their service." And there was a bit of fun and sight-seeing, of course. A trip to "Gator Country," a real Texas barbecue, and a visit to St. Anthony's Cathedral Basilica in Beaumont more than compensated for the early morning start to the workday.

"As the group leader of this year's Collegiate Challenge trip I couldn't be more proud of the growth that took place—both individually and as a group," says Laura. "We didn't just build a home in Beaumont, we built lasting friendships and memories that will last a lifetime."

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