The month of March marks the first day of spring and with that comes every college student’s favorite time of the year: SPRING BREAK. Collegiate Challenge is an event that Habitats can choose to participate in every year and offers an alternative spring break option for students wanting to give back. Habitat Seminole-Apopka hosted two weeks of Collegiate Challenge this year, with a total of 42 college-aged volunteers working eight days within our community to help build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.
The first thing that I learned about Collegiate Challenge: It is A LOT of work.
We are required to provide them with a safe place to sleep, shower, and eat. Obviously, we also need to make sure that they have work to do and provide them with an enriching volunteer experience. While not required, we also supply them with enough groceries to get them started for the week. In summary, there is a lot of organizing and as one of my co-workers stated, “the next two weeks will be filled with a lot of ‘oh no’ moments.” While I definitely had quite a few of those moments, the entire experience was so incredible.
The second thing I learned about Collegiate Challenge: It is A LOT of fun.
I had a wonderful time working with our two teams and sharing different parts of our community with them. It was so much fun to watch their confidence grow during their time with us. Most of them started with little to no working knowledge of how to build a house. By the end of the week, they were framing walls as well as our regular volunteers!
It was also wonderful to watch the team develop relations with each other AND our future homeowners! It's truly a special feeling to build a wall with the person who will be living in that very home.
The second team had the opportunity to work in our Neighborhood Revitalization community of Plymouth. All of the elders in the community came out to cook lunch for the 30 students working on sprucing up the Plymouth Community Center. At the end of the day, I can tell you that each student left the job site knowing that they had made an impact on the lives in that community. In fact, I attended the Plymouth Community meeting last night and they are still talking about that group and all the work they completed!
The third thing I learned about Collegiate Challenge: We host some pretty incredible students.
It was not that long ago that I too was a college student, so I absolutely understand the importance of spring break for most students. Forty-two students gave up their week of relaxation to come to Florida and do physical labor for a week. That is remarkable and something I think should be recognized.
All of us here at Habitat Seminole-Apopka would like to once again thank the University of Mary Washington and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for two incredible weeks! We can’t build homes without the dedication of our volunteers.