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posted: 3/19/2014 8:37 AM

North Central students use spring break for mission trips

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By Nancy Dunker
North Central College

While some students relax on a sunny beach during their spring break, many North Central College students embark on service trips across the nation.

Nearly 60 students from the Naperville school will build houses, serve food at a homeless shelter and serve communities in Detroit, New York City, West Virginia and other locations. Another 50 students in the Concert Choir will perform in venues in the Midwest.

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The college's Office of Multicultural Affairs is sending a team into the heart of Detroit to engage in economic disaster recovery projects. As part of the Motown Mission Experience, a Christian urban work mission, students will partner with other volunteers to repair homes and serve the community.

The trip will include a cultural component, too, with visits to Detroit's Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and the Motown Museum.

Far from the urban sprawl of Detroit, members of North Central's Catholic Student Association and Catholic minister Leslie Stopka head to West Virginia to serve at Bethlehem Farm, an organization that repairs homes, maintains community gardens and manages a local thrift shop and food pantry.

"I'm not sure exactly what we'll be working on," says Stopka, "but I know from experience we'll work very hard and have fun doing it."

She hopes students will learn how to live a sustainable lifestyle through conservation of resources, charity, simplicity and prayer.

The Union, North Central College's off-campus music venue, is leading a trip to Nashville. Students will serve the community during the day, explore local music venues and cultural activities each night, and stay in a hostel near Nashville's famed Music Row.

"We initiated this trip last year as an opportunity for students to connect with the core mission of The Union: arts and social change," says Whitney Roberts, North Central assistant director of ministry and service.

In addition to Nashville, the student organization BreakAway is sponsoring service trips to New York City; Birmingham, Ala.; and Lafayette, La. The New York group will partner with Center for Student Missions, an organization that aims to transform lives and positively impact churches and local people in need. Students will serve at a homeless shelter, an after-school program and more.

Groups heading to Birmingham and Lafayette will work with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry founded on the principle that every person should have a decent place to live. They will build and repair houses alongside volunteers and supporters from all backgrounds.

Also partnering with Habitat for Humanity, nine members of North Central's football team and Fellowship of Christian Athletes will serve in Charleston, S.C., for the sixth straight year. By returning to the same area each year, students gain a greater understanding of the issues behind substandard housing and see the long-term effects of their work.

North Central College's Concert Choir with 50 of its members heads to churches and venues in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois for its "Road Home" tour.

North Central's spring break falls between winter and spring terms, March 20-30.

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