Canton, Mississippi, Service Trip Set for Spring Break

Abby Wittler, Staff Writer, Journalism I

The Canton, Mississippi, service trip is a 17-year running tradition that “humbles, empowers, and strengthens students’ will to serve,” according to the current trip leader Daniel Kriegl, NDA’s campus minister.

Every year on NDA’s spring break, four vans filled with five students and a chaperone driver make the 16-hour trek down to Canton. They drive about seven hours the first day, stop in Champaign, Illinois, and drive the remaining nine hours the next day. They then do the opposite on the way back. The trip leaves the first Friday of spring break and comes back the following Saturday.

This destination was chosen because it is one of the poorest counties in the country and they need assistance in many parts of their community.

A former NDA staff member, Ann Weiss, started the trip with the assistance of interim principal Matthew Shultz. When she was in college, Weiss had gone on a service trip to Canton and thought it would be a good experience to bring to NDA students.

This was in the year 2000 when they “only wanted to take about 12 students,” said Schultz. Since this first trip, it has expanded to around 20 students every year.

In the beginning, they built a house, or as much of one they could with the time they had but now there are also side projects included so everyone has something to do the whole time.

Schultz said, “It is another opportunity for students grow outside of their normal support system,” and it is good for them to be independent of their parents for a week. It helps them to truly act like themselves and learn about who they are.

Every year there are many different opportunities for the students to help while they are in Canton. They can care for children at the MADCAAP center while their parents are at work, rebuild whatever house they are helping with, take donations outside of a local Walmart or work in a garden.

MADCAAP is an organization that provides free childcare, has a food pantry, helps to build or rebuild people’s houses, and empowers locals with training programs and jobs. “It is a cultural experience and it shows you what an organization can do,” said Kriegl.  

Kriegl says he thinks the trip is so successful because of word of mouth. Kids go on the trip, have an amazing experience that they want other people to experience as well and  tell their younger friends about it.

They live in a community for the entire trip, sleeping on a gym floor, sharing a bathroom, and having pure, innocent fun like playing handball and going to mass together. This helps build a community within the group. There is a forever connection that comes from spending this much time and having an experience like this with other people.  

The only requirements to go on this trip are that you have to be an upperclassmen, fill out an application, and you cannot be in disciplinary trouble with the school. It costs $400 to go on the trip, but Kriegl has never turned a person away for financial reasons. He is always willing to help if it is needed.

To help subsidize the cost of the trip students can sell “Canton Stock” to friends and family. They are $10 each and go towards the individual’s trip fee.

Students Lauren Welker and Paul Gapinski told about their favorite part of the trip. “I think seeing the transition from when we began working on the house to when we finished,” said Gapinski.

My favorite moment of the trip was putting in the laminate wood flooring for the man (Joe) we served. I worked with another girl to cut and lay down all the pieces, and it was really satisfying to see the finished product. Joe was also very impressed with our work and extremely grateful that we and the other students could help fix up his house after it had been damaged in a fire,” said Welker.

Both of these students had profound experiences on the trip and recommended that anyone who wants an eye-opening week should try to go on the trip.