For students around the country, spring break is synonymous with time spent with friends or family. However, this is not the case for those students and staff participating in Spring Service Partnerships, a way for students to spend a short time of their year serving others in need.
This year, spring break happens to be from Feb. 29 through March 10, with most SSPs arriving back on March 9. There are three international sites: Amsterdam, Netherlands; Croc, Mexico; and Dublin, Ireland. Ten sites are available domestically: Grand Marais, Minnesota; Lindale, Texas; Opelousas, Louisiana; New Orleans, Louisiana; Kansas City, Kansas; Denver, Colorado; Mescalero, New Mexico; Jacksonville, Florida; Compton, California; and Waco, Texas.
The SSP program annually sends around 180-200 people to serve. This year’s theme is “Love is the Reason,” taken from 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
Emma Van Meeteran, an SSP coordinator along with Kelsey Lang, said, “We think it’s really important to go into whatever type of service we are doing with an attitude of love.”
All fundraising for the partnerships is done as a team, consisting of anywhere from seven to 30 members of any age and major. Once applications close and teams are placed, each team will be responsible for raising their funds, meaning the service trip usually costs students very little.
SSPs offer a wide range of opportunities and purposes. Some are more manual service trips, whereas others are designed to build community and relationships. A variety of ministries are available, such as working with kids, in different cultures, with inmates, on reservations or in Hispanic neighborhoods.
Seniors Jori Steenhoek and Leah Wright both had the opportunity to spend a couple of their spring breaks serving others. Steenhoek has been to Rockport, Texas and Compton, California, but it was in Compton she was able to utilize her passions to help others while working for The Compton Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to the beautification of the city.
“My experiences in Rockport and Compton were very different. In Rockport, hurricane relief and physical labor were needed, whereas, Compton dealt with more relational work. It was really amazing to see how God is working in Compton. Community development is a passion of mine, and we were able to work with The Compton Initiative on the restoration of the city.” Steenhoek said.
For Wright, she spent two spring breaks in Lindale, Texas spreading discipleship in prisons. After an emotional first experience, Wright used her growth to impact the convicts she met during her second partnership.
“The second year I did not want to go back to Lindale because I had some inner turmoil due to personal insecurities the first time, but I decided to trust in God and do it anyway.
“Once there again, I felt so much of God’s faithfulness in using something scary for me to do something good for others. I was able to use my struggles to share with the inmates about the importance of fixing our eyes on God, even if we’re feeling inadequate,” Wright said.
Both Steenhoek and Wright were greatly impacted on their SSPs and encourage other students to take advantage of the opportunity to serve others in different places across the globe.
International applications, which are more intensive with spots that go to juniors and seniors first, opened Sept. 27 and are due Oct. 18. Domestic applications, which are first come first serve, will be open Nov. 8 through Jan. 10.