Students serve and learn during Notre Dame spring break

Author: Michael O. Garvey


More than 220 Notre Dame students will spend their spring break in impoverished areas of Appalachia, alongside migrant workers inFloridatomato fields and in theCaliforniadesert, speaking with social activists and policymakers inNew YorkandWashington, and as guests of developmentally disabled people inCanada.

The students are enrolled in the Spring Break Seminars, one-credit courses administered by the faculty and staff of Notre Dames Center for Social Concerns in cooperation with other academic departments of the University and often with assistance from Notre Dame Alumni Association as well.

Before their departure from Notre Dames campus Saturday and Sunday (March 5 and 6), participating students will have attended orientation classes and read Catholic social teachings relevant to the sites and communities they will visit.

The largest of the seminars, onAppalachia, will send 156 students to 15 sites in the region.In addition to assisting in various community service projects, the students will work and recreate with local residents and discuss with them such matters as environmental problems, education and the regions economy.

The Migrant Seminar will send 12 students toImmokalee,Fla., to examine social issues affecting migrant workers in the area.The students will work in the fields with migrant workers, live with migrant families, and hear from a variety of agency and political leaders.

The 10 students participating in the Holy Cross Mission Seminar will travel to the Parish of Nuestra Senora de Soledad Coachella in southernCalifornia.Working with members of Notre Dames founding religious community, the Congregation of Holy Cross, and hosted by local families, the students will study the Catholic Churchsoption for the poorthrough an immersion in the spirituality, culture and economy of a poor rural community.

The L’Arche Seminar will bring 12 students to the Daybreak Community inTorontoto live and work in a community of developmentally disabled people and their companions.They will be introduced to the vision and writings of LArche founder Jean Vanier, and to the model of service he has inspired. This seminar is co-sponsored withLoganCenterinSouth Bend, where the Center for Social Concerns helps support a community-based learning coordinator.

The theme of this years Washington Seminar is the current state of education inAmerica. The 12 participating students will meet with education advocates, church leaders and governmental representatives to discuss such issues as the No Child Left Behind Act, the charter school movement and the role of Catholic education.

The Children and Poverty Seminar will send 12 undergraduates and 2 graduate students toNew York Cityto examine issues affecting youth, especially those who are poor.Their visits will include officials at the United Nations and administrators atColumbiaUniversity’sNationalCenterfor Children and Poverty.They, too, will be particularly concerned with the No Child Left Behind Act as well as other recent legislation.

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