The CORE of MSU: Service and Learning …


Mayville State students, faculty, and alumni embark on service learning spring break trip

Summary by Dr. Andi Dulski-Bucholz,CORE trip faculty advisor

Getting back from a spring break trip on Sunday morning or afternoon would not be unusual for most students who will be back in classes again on Monday. However, one group of Mayville State University students and faculty members arrived back in town at 3 a.m., after a nine-day Spring Break CORE Trip that encompassed much more than fun and sight-seeing.

Many family and friends of MSU have heard about the trip and its mission via fund-raising events that students and faculty had been doing within the MSU and extended community. That support was put to good use when 18 students, two alumni, and three faculty members left last Friday evening by bus to embark on a journey to the east coast and back. There were two purposes in mind: service and learning.

The members of the trip began their service at the break of dawn the first morning in Rockford, Ill. at the Rockford Rescue Mission where they prepared and served breakfast to the homeless and people in the crisis center and recovery programs. The MSU CORE group provided help by preparing foods, serving, and cleaning the kitchen and dining areas. A thought taken from that service stop: “If 23 people were kept busy while serving and preparing just ONE meal, how many donated hours are needed to support food programs for those in need across the nation?”

The group left for Indianapolis, Ind. to stop at the Peace Learning Center, a non-profit agency dedicated to promoting peace through team-building and conflict resolution programs in schools, community non-profits, businesses, juvenile correctional facilities, and faith groups. Jay Horan and Tiffany Tibbot met the MSU group mid-afternoon and provided an overview of the many educational programs the organization led, and then facilitated some energizing empathy and team-building sessions for the MSU group.

With a stop in Indianapolis came an interest to see the Indianapolis Speedway. Curiosity may have gotten the best of the group while navigating areas of questionably marked construction zones in a passenger bus. One stuck bus at an Indy racetrack parking lot led to a short delay, but soon the CORE group was on the way, driving through the night to reach the nation’s first settlement in Jamestown, Va.

The Jamestown stop was one of several Sunday, March 13, as the CORE Trip group had some time to see historic sites and stop by Virginia Beach prior to getting ready for work and learning in and around the Courtland, Va. area.

Teacher education students Morgan Duran, Kristin Wright, Krista Aanderud, Stephanie Bosman, Brady Eichelberger, Emily Laternus, Brooke Schurman, Megan Massel, Dawnelle Nerby, Erin Rector, Zachary Siewert, Jeannette Sevigny, and Stephany Wold, along with MSU alumni Benjamin and Shelby Strand (current teachers at Hillsboro Elementary School), nursing student Nicole Hunt, and Dr. Andi Dulski-Bucholz, chair of the MSU Division of Education and Psychology worked within the Courtland schools throughout the 2 ½ days while in Courtland. Students and teachers from MSU were placed with teachers from Courtland schools to share this teaching and learning experience during school hours and in Riverdale Elementary School’s after-school program.

While the teachers and teacher candidates were busy in the Courtland schools, MSU’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Dina Zavala, and instructor of Sociology, Lona Smith, gave students Dalton Erickson (Business), Sarah Jacobson (Nursing), Summer Dearinger (Medical Lab Tech), and Alex Johnson (Pre-Med) experiences with stops throughout the community. Dr. Maria Ona specifically hosted Alex Johnson at her clinic in Franklin, Va.

Learning and other experiences continued after each work day was over for the CORE group members.  An evening with residents from the East Pavilion at The Village at Woods Edge, an area retirement center, led to more service, learning, and fun as the CORE group led an evening of bingo and conversation on Monday night. 

Tuesday evening, the group was off to Suffolk, Va. to volunteer at a Salvation Army led by Lieutenant Anthony. There the group unloaded and sorted a truckload of donated items. Many hands helped to get this work project done! 

On both Monday and Tuesday evening, after service events, the Riverdale Elementary gymnasium became home to the MSU students and faculty: a welcome sleeping arrangement after spending two nights on the bus! 

Principal Will Melbye (MSU alum) hosted the group in his school and his staff gave the group a most delicious morning breakfast and lunch, complete with the favorite dishes of the region, including pork chops smothered in gravy, fried chicken, she crab soup, glazed sweet potatoes, collard greens, chicken and waffles drizzled with maple syrup, and sweet tea, to mention just a few of the menu items. School staff made sure the group was well-fed to get the most out of the helping hands during those 2 ½ days! 

Just as the group made its way to Washington D.C., a service stop to Woodlawn Cemetery, a historic African-American cemetery was completed on the sixth evening into the trip. Woodlawn Cemetery has been neglected for many years and a fairly recent grass-roots effort has brought much attention to preserving this important burial site. Students picked up trash, brushed out designated areas, and removed English Ivy, an invasive vine that can eventually kill even mature trees, on the cemetery property.

A near-exhausted group found new energy as they entered D.C. Wednesday evening and had time to explore the city prior to touring the Capitol and meeting with N.D. Senator John Hoeven the next day. This proved to be an important connection to home for many group members. Senator Hoeven inquired about the backgrounds of each of the group members and their interests in the work force, indicating the value they will each bring to North Dakota’s work force. Senator Hoeven also indicated that North Dakota’s schools are among the best in the nation, with school districts that support the great teachers who work hard for their classroom students and communities. His support for these teachers and teacher candidates was evident in his conversation with the group.

After touring the National Archives and Mount Vernon  on Friday, March 18, the CORE group set out for the return trip, timing take-off to make a 7 a.m. service stop in North Chicago at a Habitat for Humanity Restore. Plans soon changed as a 2 a.m. blown-out tire on the Ohio Turnpike made for a four-hour unplanned stop along the interstate in the middle of the night. Thanks to patrolman St. Clair and his connections, the stop was only four hours and the bus got moving again early in the morning, in time to make the service work scheduled at the Chicago Habitat for Humanity Restore. 

When arriving at the Restore, once again CORE group members were welcomed with hospitality and many thanks. Habitat ReStore volunteer coordinator Nina Fuentes stated that with the thousands of non-profit organizations throughout Chicago, getting volunteer groups to come to their Restore is difficult and MSU’s CORE group’s work was sincerely appreciated. While working at the Restore, CORE group members sorted, cleaned, stacked, priced, and shelved items, from gloves to doors and everything in-between! 

A stop for some authentic Chicago-style pizza at Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria was in order before heading home, and the CORE group arrived back home at MSU Sunday, March 20 at 3 a.m., ready for classes to begin Monday at 8 a.m., after their spring “break!”

The commitment to service, learning, and sharing for students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and community organizations was evident throughout this CORE Trip. The acronym ‘CORE’ represents Community, Outreach, Relationships and Experiences. Each of these components were driving forces for this group of young leaders from MSU who set out to accomplish a great many things, both personally and professionally, throughout the trip. MSU’s faculty look forward to extending the group’s work and networking in the future, as well as planning future trips that support diverse, cultural experiences for service and learning.

The Division of Education and Psychology thanks all alumni, family, and friends who helped sponsor and support this CORE Trip, including MSU’s own Office of Diversity and Inclusion. We also recognize the work of Principal Will Melbye and everyone at Southampton County Schools for the experiences and hospitality that were provided to our students, alumni, and faculty throughout the trip. We appreciate all other planning partners, as well: The Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce (Melissa), The Village at Woods Edge East Pavilion (Esther Francis), Dr. Maria Ona, Cover 3 Foundation (Greg Scott), The Children’s Center at Courtland, Habitat for Humanity Chicago ReStore (Nina Fuentes), the office of Senator John Hoeven, Mr. Carter and Nathan Harrington at Woodlawn Cemetery (a part of the Shepherd’s Parkway clean-up), Rockford Rescue Mission (Carol Ayars and Mike), Suffolk Salvation Army (Lieutenant Anthony), and the many others at home and along the way who offered support and encouragement to this MSU CORE group!