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The Tritonian

18 NDA Students Spend Spring Break Serving the Poor in Mississippi

Canton, Mississippi Mission Trip Continues to Change Lives

For 25 years the Canton, Mississippi Mission Trip has taken place. 

In other words, every year a group of NDA students give up their week of spring break to travel to Madison County, Mississippi, and work with MadCAAP, an organization that assists the poorest of the poor. 

This year’s 18 participants, led by Father Jordan, helped with home repair, such as building steps and wheelchair ramps for peoples’ homes (trailers). The students and chaperones also replaced rotted-out garden beds and worked in after-school programs for kids.

The Tritons stayed at the First Baptist Church’s Recreation Center, sleeping on the gym and stage floors in sleeping bags atop air mattresses.

They also celebrated Mass on Tuesday and Wednesday at Sacred Heart Parish in Canton. 

The Online Tritonian asked members of the service team to share their thoughts about the spring break trip quite different from many of their classmates.  As their comments come in, they will be added to the story.

Father Jordan, campus minister and organizer of the trip:  “The group of students we had on the trip from Notre Dame Academy are some of our brightest, hardest working, and most selfless people I know.  The Mission Trip to Canton, Mississippi, is countercultural; in a hedonistic culture it is rare to encounter young people willing to sacrifice vacation time during spring break to go and serve others, and yet eighteen students were willing to do so.bNot only did these students give of their time but were also willing to be uncomfortable in doing dirty jobs and being around people they didn’t entirely know before the trip.  The trip is about serving Christ, not only in the people we help, who are living in poverty, but also in the small community we have formed as Notre Dame students and families who choose to go on the trip.”  

Irene Ertman, sophomore: Going into the trip, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The group that went was definitely unique. I met a lot of new and interesting people. What stuck out to me the most was seeing how people different from me live. Just about all of the people I encountered were full of optimism and hospitality. Seeing all that is being done to help people was very uplifting, and seeing all the things that still need to be done makes me want to get more involved in helping others in my community.” 

Anthony Lamm, senior:  “I had so much fun there. I made so many new friends and grew friendships I had to begin with. When you go on this trip, you will see things you have not otherwise witnessed. It opens our eyes to what’s really going on in our world. People are suffering, and it is our job to help them. I recommend this for anyone who wants to help others and see another part of our country. This trip opened my eyes to the poverty that Americans face. We need to show these people mercy, and we need to give them hope.”

Jordan Johnson, sophomore:  “I had no idea what to expect from this trip. I made many new friends, and this trip opened my eyes to the realities of people suffering in our world. It was amazing to see that despite living in poverty, the people we helped were optimistic about their futures and were all extremely welcoming to us. I recommend this trip to anyone who enjoys helping others or wants to meet new people and make a difference in someone else’s life.” 

Students serving in Canton were Camille Lawrence, Hanna Szabo, Bryce Hawley, Charlie Gerstner, Lane Ertman, Evan Ertman, Jordan Johnson, Brooke Huss, Miles Hunter, Yaneli Agredano, Natalia Rodriquez Murillo, Maya Christensen, Shaun Huss, Anthony Lamm, Thomas Ott, Owen Prosser, Irene Ertman and Arnol Castellanos Perez.

Chaperones included Jenny Hawley, Bill Hawley, Jason Prosser and Emily Hawley.

History of the Trip

IB Coordinator and history teacher Matt Schultz, who went on the initial trip and six other trips, gave the history of the annual spring break trek to Canton.

In his words, “The idea for the trip came from Ann Weiss (NDA ’95). She was working at NDA in the athletic department at the time, and I was just hired as a long-term sub for Mrs. Campbell.  Ann brought the idea to NDA from her experience at Marquette.  She had gone on an alternative spring break trip to Canton, MS, while in college and thought that it would be a great thing to do for our students.

“So, she asked me if I would be the male chaperone and help her with the trip. Ann and I had been friends in high school and graduated in the same class. She had connections in Canton from her college trip, and we both read through some anonymous applications to pick out 12 students to go with us. We had also conducted some sensitivity training before we left to help our students prepare for the culture shock they would experience, and the racial divide that is much more obvious in the South than in Green Bay.

“We built a home for a family during that first year, visited a nursing home and attended a parish youth night in Madison, MS.  Overall, I have gone to Canton seven times with high school students on a service trip.  Over the years that I went, many other teachers were able to attend, including Mrs. Hall.  I think the largest group I was a part of was 24 students, but typically we took between 10-15 students most years.”


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