Spring Break Service Trip Changes Lives in Canton, Changes Lives of NDA Students


Ava Vanden Corput , Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Instead of spending spring break on tropical vacation, hanging out with friends, or sitting at home doing nothing, 20 Notre Dame Academy students paired up with MadCAAP (Madison Countians Allied Against Poverty) to go on a weeklong service trip to Canton, Mississippi.

The service team included Bailie Anders, Ashlyn Arett, Emily Conard, Tori Gantz, Emily Seidl, Lauren Welker, Katie Gapinski, Cali Gurnicki, Madeline Kaye, Emily Lelinski, Eleanor Sladek, Claire Weydt, Christin Roskos, Jack Allen, Paul Gapinski, Jacob Larsen, David Letter, Charlie Lemkuil, Collin Clark and Jack Colleran.

“I decided to apply for the trip because I love getting to go outside my small scope in Green Bay and be able to impact the lives of people who need some help, while simultaneously changing my perspective. My goal is to bring Christ’s light to everyone I can–near or far. Canton was the perfect opportunity for me to spend my spring break in a meaningful way–doing service for others,” said senior Christin Roskos.

“I wanted to go on the mission trip to Canton because service is a large part of myself. I have always wanted to work directly in poverty, so this was the perfect opportunity for me,” said Emily Lelinski, also a senior.

“I decided to apply because service is not only a way to help other, but it is also a way to praise God. I have always been passionate about service but have not had an opportunity to assist with a large-scale project in a while. When the applications for Canton came out, I knew it was time to get back at it,” said senior Jack Colleran.

The traveling took two days to complete, and the trip was one week long. Before reaching Canton, the students stayed one night in Illinois. When they reached Canton, they stayed at the First Baptist Church Youth and Family Center.

One of the service projects that the students did on the trip was repair 70-year-old retired veteran Joe’s house after it was damaged in a recent fire.

Some of the jobs included installing new walls and ceilings, putting up new siding, installing new flooring, cleaning up anything burned and left black, and hauling metal out of his backyard.

“Joe suffers from PTSD and depression which prevented him from being able to sleep anywhere besides his house. So since the fire, he has been sleeping in his burnt house. We were able to drastically improve things for him,” said Roskos.

“I was completely dismayed when we learned that Joe had been sleeping in the burnt house at night. However, as we were working on the house, we noticed that there was a cross on the wall that remained after the fire. Once it was removed, there was a white silhouette of a cross among that black, charred walls of the home. It was quite a stunning scene,” said Colleran.

Another service project included spending the day making arts and crafts with children of the impoverished community.

“These kids were given a fun day full of crafts, snacks, and activities. For most of the kids, attending this fun day was the only thing that they would get to do for their spring break,” said Notre Dame Academy senior Collin Clark.

The students who did not spend the day with the children spent the day working in a  garden started by MadCAAp called the Helping Hands Garden of Hope.

“This garden produces around 11,000 pounds of produce for food pantries every year. We spent the day hauling dirt around, weeding, cleaning up the garden and helping out wherever we could,” said Clark.

Overall, the experience was worthwhile to many of the students who decided to go on the trip to Canton, Mississippi.

“My favorite part was meeting so many new people. I signed up for the trip without necessarily knowing anyone who was going on it. I obviously knew other kids through school, but I had so much fun getting to know the other kids. Also, meeting new people like Joe and LJ, another man who we helped, really changed my outlook on life. These people had so little in their lives, but they had so much faith and optimism. It was also amazing to see a project come together before our eyes and to see the change that we caused in some people’s lives,” said Clark.

“I loved being able to influence Joe’s life by being there to improve his quality of life, while also bonding with my classmates who have the same goals and values as me when it comes to service,” said Roskos.

“My favorite part of the trip was experiencing the joy we shared with Joe. He loves fishing, and so, as a parting gift, we bought him a fishing pole. As we said goodbye, tears rolled down his face. That moment with, when we all saw the effects of our service, made every day of work far more than worth it,” said Colleran.

Reflecting back on the experience, the students had nothing but positive things to stay about their week-long service trip.

“This trip was an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve been blessed so much that I’ve never had to experience the hardships that people like Joe face in their daily lives. I have found a new appreciation for my life,” said Clark.

“The experience meant far more than just being a few days of work. The trip gave us all an insight into the greatest beauty of all. Joe’s home was charred with smoke, and his yard was filled with rusted and decrepit scraps of metal. It was not a very beautiful scene. However, seeing Joe become happy once again, and allowing us to spend time with him, was the most beautiful thing I could ever ask to witness. The trip instilled in us that human beings–no matter who they are or where they are from–are sacred and beautiful. Serving others is also a service to yourself, for you can grow as a person,” said Colleran.

“The trip changed me for good because my faith has improved and grown stronger. I have also found myself trying to be the best person I can be because I am truly blessed with all God has given me,” said Lelinski.

“It made me realize that we are all capable of making a difference in someone’s life– big or small. It’s easy to feel helpless here in Green Bay, but there are ways for us to translate God’s love here through the service we do to others,” said Roskos.

Overall many of the students would recommend this trip to anyone because of the way it impacted their lives for the better.

“I would recommend this trip to anyone. In my opinion, this experience in Canton was better than any tropical vacation would provide. I would go back every year if I could. The friendships and memories that were made are life-changing,” said Clark.

“Please keep in your prayers those facing poverty in our city, in our country and in our world. It’s easy to forget about the struggles other people face because we are consumed with our problems, but poverty is a problem, and prayer is a powerful way to make a difference from here in Green Bay,” said Roskos.