For a group of select first-year students, one summer service-learning trip can change the way they view themselves, their communities and those impacted by homelessness around the world.
Each summer, members of the incoming class participate in SU SPLASH (Students Promoting Leadership and Awareness in Serving the Homeless), an opportunity coordinated by The David '69 and Sharon Johnson Center for Civic Engagement.
The project is divided into two parts, with students spending time throughout the Selinsgrove area before traveling to Washington, D.C. In both locations, students participate in service-learning activities designed to teach them about the realities of homelessness.
During their time in the Susquehanna Valley, students volunteer at local community organizations, such as Haven Ministries, a nonprofit shelter in Sunbury, Pa., and the Hand Up Foundation in Milton, Pa.
After spending a few days getting to know the community and each other, the students travel to Washington, D.C., where they work with a variety of organizations, such as the D.C. Central Kitchen, the Capital Area Food Bank and a breakfast program at Capital Hill United Methodist Church.
Throughout the trip, current students and past participants, such as Terry Lark '17, act as peer mentors to the first-year students.
"I went on the trip as an incoming first-year, and it really broadened my horizons and helped calm my nerves about coming to college and finding my place," said Lark. "You learn things about yourself and others that you couldn't really begin to comprehend in any other setting."
"It's real, it's raw, and it's my favorite service opportunity that Susquehanna has to offer, hands down," said Lark.