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Buckeye service program ‘life changing’ for Ohio State students

Courtesy of Buck-i-Serv

Ohio State students who took an alternative Spring Break with Buck-I-Serv this year said their experience has been “life changing.”

Lydia Nader, a second-year in nutrition and chair of Buck-I-Serv, said she loves the alternative break program and is a part of it is because of the stories she hears from students when they return from their trips.

“A student came back from their winter break trip this year and she said she changed her major and she realized what she wanted to do with the rest of her life,” Nader said. “Hearing stories like that, where students have self discoveries of themselves by being put out of their comfort zone, I think is huge.”

Buck-I-Serv sends students across the country over winter, spring and summer breaks to volunteer for a week on a variety of social issues like animal rights, youth, environment, health and wellness, homelessness, hunger and poverty. Students commit about 40 hours to their site and use the extra time to make connections with other students. This year more than 350 students out of about 600 applicants were sent on 27 trips.

Jennifer Meyer, a second-year in public affairs, traveled to Baltimore, Md., this spring break to volunteer at a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. Meyer said she gained more from her service than she expected. Meyer said a few students made such a connection with those they served that tears were shed when it was time to depart.

“I feel like throughout the week, looking back, they taught us so much more than we taught them,” Meyer said. “When we were leaving, a lot of them were begging us to stay and they were asking if we were going to come back next week.”

Meyer said it’s service like this that makes her want to work in public policy for a nonprofit after graduation.

Alfred Yates, a third-year in math and communication, also had a “life-changing” experience this spring. He led a trip to Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park near Memphis, Tenn. The group of 10 repaired bridges, cut trees that had fallen on pathways and expanded the flight space of a cage for birds of prey. Yates said Buck-I-Serv unites students at OSU that have a common goal.

“We were all out there sweating together trying to get theses jobs done, and it really helps form friendships that we’ll keep for quite some time,” Yates said.

Other OSU students in Yates’ Buck-I-Serv group plan to hangout, get dinner or do more service soon, he said.

“Our service doesn’t really stop in Memphis,” Yates said. “We will probably try to look into some things and parks around here and do some similar jobs.”

Community service has encouraged Yates to pursue his masters in finance and work in the nonprofit sector. He said he would like to take his business knowledge and passion for service and create some change in nonprofits.

“We can see through organizations like Buck-I-Serv that having hands can make an impact, but something else I’ve learned through my experiences is that money creates change too,” Yates said. “Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector isn’t quite as successful in those regards as for-profit businesses.”

Allie Mooney, a first-year in exploration, went with 49 other students to pick up trash in the Everglades National Park and work with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami in Florida. She also forged connections with her peers.

“It was such a good experience,” Mooney said. “I didn’t think that 50 people could get that close in that short of an amount of time but I don’t know, working that hard for a common purpose (was) awesome.”

Mooney and her peers got to know each other personally while in Miami. They created a bond and support system that she said helped make the trip about more than service. The group has already had a reunion.

“I reflect on that trip all the time now and I actually think it’s helped me sort of guide the rest of my college career,” Mooney said.

After the trip, Mooney became the marketing coordinator for Buck-I-Serv. She said she hopes to use energy from her spring break to share the message that alternative breaks are something that every student should try.

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