Iowa State students Hannah Yokiel in child, adult, and family services (left) and Kelly Rudnicki in global resource systems (right) volunteered at a Madison, Wisconsin food bank during winter break as part of the Alternative Breaks program. Contributed photo.
Iowa State students Hannah Yokiel in child, adult, and family services (left) and Kelly Rudnicki in global resource systems (right) volunteered at a Madison, Wisconsin food bank during winter break as part of the Alternative Breaks program. Contributed photo.

Iowa State students help Midwest families in need

A dozen College of Human Sciences students are among 27 from Iowa State University who spent part of their winter break helping those in need.

Through the university’s Alternative Breaks programs, the students distributed meals through the Second Harvest Food Bank in Madison, Wisconsin; assisted teachers at University City Children’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri; and helped low-income families through Phoenix Family in Kansas City, Missouri.

Each trip focused on a different social issue. This year, students worked to address issues of hunger, education, and poverty.

This was the fourth Alternative Break trip for Nina Streauslin, the undergraduate site leader for the St. Louis trip and a senior in dietetics. She continues to sign up each year because of the renewed perspective the experiences give her.

“After every Alternative Break trip, I come back to school feeling more grounded and thankful for all the opportunities I have been presented with,” Streauslin said. “Many times, college students including myself can get caught up in the stress of schoolwork. Volunteering over winter break helps put in perspective how fortunate I am to be receiving a higher education from a great institution.”

Future teacher helps Kansas City families

For volunteers such as Brooke Herren, a senior in elementary education, the service-learning activities are a natural extension of what’s learned in the classroom.

kc-alt-break-1Working with Phoenix Family, a nonprofit aiming to raise low-income families out of the cycle of poverty, Herren and the other volunteers distributed clothing, food, and book donations around Kansas City.

“This trip connected well with me academically because I am going to be a teacher and it showed me other situations that kids have to deal with on top of school,” she said.

Serving meals in Wisconsin

Four other College of Human Sciences students learned about hunger at the Second Harvest Food Bank, a nonprofit organization that provides millions of meals in southwestern Wisconsin.

Last week, students distributed food to more than 225 agencies that partner with Second Harvest including emergency food pantries, senior meal sites, mobile pantry sponsors, residential programs, soup kitchens, school pantries and children’s nutrition programs.

They also worked with its Mobile Pantry Program, a service that increases existing meal site and shelter offerings by delivering perishable and nonperishable goods directly to the sites.

“This volunteer opportunity has opened my eyes to social obstacles and has created the foundation for me to become an involved citizen in my community,” said Hannah Yokiel, the undergraduate site leader for the trip and a senior in child, adult, and family services.

Helping at-risk children in St. Louis

In St. Louis, students spent the week at the University City Children’s Center, a nonprofit early education center for children from diverse backgrounds.kc-alt-break-7b

The Iowa State students played with kids and deep-cleaned the facility. Six of the 10 volunteers in St. Louis were College of Human Sciences students.

Bennett Luedtke, a junior in kinesiology and health, said the trip to St. Louis helped him to better appreciate his circumstances.

“I entered college hoping that I could find some opportunities to volunteer,” he said. “I felt that I was too self-focused in high school and needed to give something back to the world considering how much it has given to me.”

Continuing to make a difference at home

Amanda Ehlers, a graduate assistant in the School of Education who coordinated the trips for the Student Activities Center, said experiential learning programs such as Alternative Breaks are impactful teaching tools.

“The main goal of the Alternative Breaks experience is to get students to see the issues that are happening around the nation and come back home after the trip and continue the work,” Ehlers said.

Fifty Iowa State students applied for the 27 available spots on the trips. Prior to departure, participants spent eight weeks getting to know each other and learning about the social issues they would be working on.

Quinton-Elia Bose, the public relations and outreach intern for this year’s Alternative Breaks and a senior in biology, said the service-learning projects are a chance to thank organizations who serve others every day.

“All of the agencies I’ve been in contact with through Alternative Breaks have always been so amazed and grateful for what we do for them and their causes in just one week,” he said. “But the way that I see it, they’re the real heroes.”

In addition to the winter trips, Iowa State Alternative Breaks also coordinates annual spring break service opportunities. Applications for the spring trips are currently available online.

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KEY CONTACTS:

Amanda Ehlers, graduate assistant, School of Education, 515-294-4373, ehlersa@iastate.edu

Nina Streauslin, Alternative Breaks undergraduate site leader; senior in dietetics; Iowa State University, ninas@iastate.edu

Brooke Herren, senior in elementary education, Iowa State University, bherren@iastate.edu

Hannah Yokiel, Alternative Breaks undergraduate site leader; senior in child, adult, and family services; Iowa State University, hyokiel@iastate.edu

Bennett Luedtke, junior in kinesiology and health, Iowa State University, bluedtke@iastate.edu

Quinton-Elia Bose, public relations and outreach intern for Alternative Breaks; senior in biology; Iowa State University, qbose@iastate.edu

Shannon Stump, graduate assistant writer, College of Human Sciences, Iowa State University, 515-294-9424, hsnews1@iastate.edu

 

  • Quick Look

    A dozen College of Human Sciences students are among 27 from Iowa State University who spent part of their winter break helping three Midwest communities through the Alternative Breaks program.


  • “The main goal of the Alternative Breaks experience is to get students to see the issues that are happening around the nation and come back home after the trip and continue the work.”

    Amanda Ehlers

    “After every Alternative Break trip, I come back to school feeling more grounded and thankful for all the opportunities I have been presented with.”

    Nina Streauslin