Students Help the Community, Discover Their Impact

April 17, 2024

Since 2017, the Office of Campus Ministry at St. John Fisher University has embarked on an annual spring break trip to serve the community while allowing students to get engaged in what they love.

Students on the annual campus ministry service trip.

“Our main goal is to provide an opportunity for students to encounter others, in their contexts, in their own spaces, so students can see that the problems and needs we face here at home are similar to those people face everywhere,” said Jonathan Schott, assistant director of campus ministry.

This year, a dozen students traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, and engaged in service projects with Habitat for Humanity, St. Vincent DePaul Society, Matthew 25 Ministries, Cincinnati Food Bank, New Life Furniture Bank, Working-in-Neighborhoods Urban Farming Program, and ShelterHouse, a men’s shelter for those experiencing homelessness.

For the itinerary of the trip, they divided themselves into different groups and services depending on the day. On their first day, all students went to Prince of Peace Lutheran to help serve breakfast, and the following day they assisted at Matthew 25 Ministries. They also went to Freestore Foodbank, helping to pack and distribute 30 pounds of food to 680 senior citizens in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, and Southeast Indiana. By mid-week, they divided and conquered different service projects at St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry and New Life Furniture. Students serving at New Life Furniture delivered furniture to four families in need who otherwise wouldn’t have had access or funds to furnish their affordable housing. Teams of students spent the afternoon at ShelterHouse or tending to an urban garden through Working-In-Neighborhoods. On the final day, the entire team helped at a Habitat for Humanity construction site.

Students pack boxes during the campus ministry service trip.

“Seeing the students engage with others who were experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity was a standout moment,” said Schott. “By hearing and seeing their stories, by spending time with them on this trip while providing meals, and through that, they started to comprehend their impact on others.”

As a ministry trip, the Campus Ministry staff have three values they want to accomplish and help students achieve, including care for others through homelessness outreach, poverty relief, homebuilding, or home repair; care for creation through environmental work, improving access to nature, or alleviating food deserts via urban farm work; and care for one another in small group reflections, men’s and women’s group time, worship, and prayer opportunities. Schott said students of all or no faith traditions are welcome to participate in the trip.

“Our service trip has been a pipeline for student leadership at the University including the Peer Ministry Program, but also students who are now resident assistants, peer mentors, Student Government Association members, club officers, and so on. An experience like this helps the Fisher student in their overall experience at the University,” he explained. “The trip experience continues to be a safe space for people of any or no faith tradition to feel welcomed and grow in their own experiences.”