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Students Enjoy Spring Break Through Service Learning

New Rochelle, NY (April 1, 2014) Iona College students and staff gave new meaning to the words “spring break” as 43 students and five moderators participated in service and social justice mission trips during a recent week-long hiatus from campus life. The students experienced hands-on service learning while moving the world through their commitment to serving others regionally, nationally and internationally. Through the Iona in Mission program coordinated by the office of Mission and Ministry, the forty eight participants traveled to the Dominican Republic, Detroit, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.

The Dominican Republic mission immersion trip was unique in that it was a component in the service-learning course entitled, Haiti: Political and Economic Challenges in a Post-Natural Disaster Context, taught by Tricia Mulligan, Ph.D., chair of the Political Science department.

"Last week was one of the most wonderful and challenging weeks of my life.  We experienced directly the devastating impact of abject poverty, neglect, and the amazing capacity of the human spirit. In providing food to children and prison inmates, working on homes, and other services for families with no access to food, water or sanitation, we had the opportunity to gain perspective and to share in the generosity, kindness, and dignity of those most disaffected in the global community. Although we were there to provide service, we received, and will continue to receive, far more. It was humbling and difficult. However, I am convinced a small group, our group, can do great things to begin to make a difference. We have to. This trip was only the first step." - Dr. Tricia Mulligan 

Students worked with Crossroads, an organization that serves the Haitian refugee population and poorest of the poor in the community of Puerto Plata. Students were exposed to the social and political realities of poverty and the injustice inflicted upon Haitian refugees and Dominicans of Haitian decent who are discriminated against. The first- hand experience of their service and outreach in feeding ministries, prisoner visits, in the dump where children scrounge for food, construction projects, and activities for children reinforced the classroom material.

The Iona in Mission of Detroit partnered with Motown Mission housed in the Metropolitan United Methodist Church for the second year. Students served in various community development projects including urban farming, abandoned lot cleanups, and greening projects with Blight Busters, Central Detroit Christian Development Corporation, and the Urban Farming Initiative.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Iona in Mission group that went to New Orleans partnered with Camp Restore, which is a Lutheran organization with the mission to restore faith, home and community. The Iona team worked at several service sites including two days with ARC, an organization empowering and employing adults with disabilities, at their Mardi Gras beads recycling program and community farm. Ionians also helped a social worker renovate a future community center for youth and seniors, volunteered as an animal shelter, and planted trees with the St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation for the rejuvenation of the wetlands after Katrina’s decimation of this natural storm protection barrier. While experiencing the rich culture of New Orleans, the Iona in Mission team also visited with the Edmund Rice Brothers and Christian Brothers Volunteers’ recent Iona College alumni, Travis Wain ’12, Lauren Zanfardino ’13, and Erika Enlund ’13 to reflect on their experience in New Orleans.

The Iona in Mission team of Philadelphia worked and lived in community with the Franciscans at St. Francis Inn, which has served a hot meal for hundreds of people suffering poverty, homelessness, or addiction every day since 1979. The group worked in the restaurant-style soup kitchen each day as well at the various other agencies, such as a women’s center, the St. Francis Inn runs to address the needs of the local community.

Reflections of the Dominican Republic:

"We saw so much injustice and poverty, but also equal amounts of beauty and strength. Though the living conditions might not have been the nicest, and their daily routines might be tough, the people we met were always friendly and happy; the most hospitable and welcoming people I have ever had the pleasure to speak with. In the villages, at the dump, in the jail, or the drug rehab: humanity always shined bright. After befriending the people in these small rural towns, hearing their stories, and having to say our much-too-soon, heartbreaking goodbyes, it’s safe to say that this experience changed my perspective and you could even say it changed my life. Todos compartimos una humanidad (We all share one humanity)." - Chelsea Champion '14

"The past week has been the most beautiful and most devastating experience of my life. Our mission trip team saw breathtaking sights and met some of the most genuine people. Conversely, we witnessed some of the most destitute and heart wrenching conditions of life as a stateless, persecuted person. While it's hard to believe that a small group of people can impact the world, it is a fact that we had the pleasure of experiencing and hope to experience for the rest of our lives." - John Paul Catalanotto '15
Participants: Ryan Bacci '14 (student leader), Angelique Blake '14, Natalie Bowman '17, John Paul Catalanotto '15, Taylor Cembalisty '15, Chelsea Champion '14, Valery Gabriel '17, Emerald Greene '14, Michael Hodgen '14, Sophia Hyokyvaara '14, Andrew Jordan '14, Kiara Mendez '14, Alexandra Vinci '15, Dr. Tricia Mulligan (moderator), Dr. Thomas Van Cleave (moderator)

Reflections of Detroit:

"Given the opportunity to be the Detroit team leader was truly a memorable and impactful experience. It was an honor to be immersed in the beautiful city of Detroit with such an amazing group that truly understood what it meant to be called into service. I wish I turn back the clock and do it all over again because it was truly a experience I will never forget!" - Benny Rivera '15
“To put what this experience meant to me into just a few short sentences is without question difficult. I went out on a limb signing up for this mission trip as a confused freshman wanting nothing more than to help and inspire others. What I didn't realize was that a week later I would be leaving a place that in contrary inspired me.”- Taylor White '17

“As a senior, Iona in Mission was a turning point for my college career. Not only was I able to establish lifelong friendships, I was given the opportunity to help a city in need. A mission trip proves that Iona can in fact 'move the world” - Richard Fehn '14  
Participants: Steven Burth '15, Kyle Byrne '15, Meaghan Cramsie '16, Rich Fehn '14, Elisa Iovieno '16, Sheila Kearney '14, Patrick Lynch '17, Brigid McGlynn '15, Benny Rivera '15 (student leader), Shelbey Roy '16, Taylor White '17, and Dr. Tony Kelso (Mass Communications)

Reflections of New Orleans:

"Iona in Mission has given me the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. As a senior I can say there is no other place I would have rather been during my final spring break than serving in New Orleans with a team that became my family. It was so easy to immerse ourselves in the culture and learn about the history of the city because the people of New Orleans were so inviting and proud to call it their home. We had the pleasure to meet people from all over and hear their story. The people of New Orleans continue to stay positive and look towards the future even through all the adversities they have gone through. My week in New Orleans taught me a lot; I was reminded that time is precious, don’t take things for granted and keep a positive attitude. Iona in Mission continues to remind me that service is what drives me, it is part of who I am. I know this will not be the last time I visit New Orleans nor will it be the final chapter of my mission work."- Noelle Shaljian '14

"The Wetlands Foundation was my favorite site. New Orleans is situated 8 ft below sea level, therefore the effects of hurricanes and floods can devastate the land worse than other cities. Another way to protect New Orleans besides levees is the implantation of Cypress trees in the wetlands. Cypress trees absorb the excess water during storm surges through their roots. My team planted 300, or 10%, of the Cypress trees planted by the St. Bernard Wetlands Foundation annually. Our day was long and the work was strenuous, but what we did is going to save lives one day." - Kori Bennett '17

Participants: Rachel Baio '17, Kori Bennett '17, Sean Lynch '15, Megan Nicolaro '16, Frank Nikolaidis '17, Sean O'Brien '16, Jesus Rodriguez '14, Janell Romay '15, Noelle Shaljian '14 (student leader), Matt Taguer '16, and Steve Hill (moderator - Mission & Ministry)

Reflections of Philadelphia:

"Spending the week at St. Francis Inn gave us the opportunity to put a name and a face to poverty and addiction.  Kensington is an area that is known for addiction, but while serving at the Inn I got to know the people behind the stereotype. The strong sense of love and community allowed us to see beyond our preconceptions.  We got to know and formed friendships with the guests we served at the Inn. By the end of the week it was like we were a part of the community and sad to say goodbye to our new friends, but still excited to come back to Iona and share their stories."  - Colleen Ciriello '14

"Not only did I learn so much about poverty and addiction by completely immersing myself in the vibrant culture of Philadelphia but I also learned so much about myself and the people around me not only the ones I've served but those on my team as well thereby fortifying life long memories and friendships" -Stephanie Stein '16

Participants: Diana Brescia '15, Colleen Ciriello '14 (student leader), Caroline Farella '17, Lauren Keller '16, Kasey Malanga '17, Ariel May '15, Natasha Osamwonyi '16, Meghan Roosa '17, Stephanie Stein '16, and Timothy Uhrich (moderator - Residential Life)