Ditching Spring Break For Manual Labor

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — As a senior in college, spring break is one of the last times one is able to be free to let loose and have as much fun as possible with friends.  It consists of planning a vacation with a bunch of other recently 21-year-olds that have been by your side throughout your struggling college journey… but this is not the case for Victoria Cervone. Although she meets all of the details listed by being recently 21 and a senior at Marist College, she has decided to break away from the norm of a senior year spring break.  Instead, she will be using her time to build homes for complete strangers in Oklahoma with about 20 other students as a part of the Habitat for Humanity club on-campus.  Cervone is the Vice President and has been on the trip twice before.

While all of her best friends are planning trips to Walt Disney World, Punta Cana, and other “exotic” places, Cervone is looking forward to heading out to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to reconstruct homes for tornado and other natural disaster victims.  When asked why she has decided to skip out on the luxurious trips with friends to do manual labor in Oklahoma, Cervone said, “I’ve been doing these trips since my sophomore year and it’s an experience that I can’t explain. You get this feeling, sense of fulfillment, and something bigger than yourself… Once you have that feeling, you can’t get rid of it and you need to keep chasing it.”  She had complete full intentions of missing the trip this year to spend her time laying out on a beach with her friends before they all go their separate ways after graduation,“…but something always never sat right.” She said,“When I decided to go on the trip one last time, everything just felt right.”  After much thought and debate, Cervone realized how this is such a wonderful opportunity that may never present itself again.  She says, “I can go and take a week any time in my life to go and sit on a beach. This is probably going to be one of the last times in my life that I can use my time and help somebody else and get that feeling that is so indescribable and fulfilling.”  And with that exact explanation, she broke the news to her friends that she wouldn’t be joining them on vacation, which ended with a better outcome than she thought.

One of Cervone’s best friends, Donna Varamo, also a senior at Marist College, decided to follow in Cervone’s footsteps and will be joining her on the Habitat for Humanity trip this spring break.  She went last year and had the same feelings as Cervone. Varamo says, “Having the opportunity to go and not going just didn’t feel right for us.”  She is just as passionate and is looking forward to the Oklahoma trip.  “I think everybody should experience something like this in their lives. I don’t know where else people can get this feeling and this sense of something bigger than them,” Varamo said.

Cervone used the example from her sophomore year of college when she was in Birmingham, Alabama. “I learned how to tile an entire kitchen floor myself. That was my job for the week,” Cervone said. She admitted that she had no idea how to do that and was proud of “the fact that I was on my hands and knees cementing and tiling a floor… Sometimes I think there’s a mother and kids sitting at a kitchen table on a floor that I tiled.”

The students on the trip get assigned many different roles depending on the specific jobs that need to be done.  Cervone and Varamo clarified that in order to attend the trip and take part, you don’t need to know how to use power tools and do any type of manual labor.  Varamo says, “The supervisors will tell you what needs to be done and you can pick what you are comfortable doing.”  Once someone chooses what they’d like to do, the supervisors teach how to perform those tasks. They make sure everybody is involved and that everybody has something to do at all times.  It’s productive as well as a solid learning and challenging experience.

Cervone explained the overall goals of the chapter at Marist College by referencing the exact mission statement, which is: “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, community, and hope.”  Cervone says that this year’s trip will be completely different than any trip they’ve done before and this is “because we never really travel to cities, just rural areas, and we’ve never dealt with tornado destruction before.”  In Oklahoma, there are many tornados, which citizens of the northeast don’t know much about. The club is looking forward to expanding their horizons on different issues that they’ve never had to come across before and finding solutions to fix them.

Altogether, the Habitat for Humanity chapter at Marist College is expanding in ways other than visiting new places and performing new activities. The club just received a new club advisor, Melissa McCarthy, who is an employee in Marist Student Accommodations.  Cervone said that McCarthy was a first time chaperone on the trip last spring and loved every second of the trip.  So this semester, the board of the club asked her to become their advisor and without hesitation McCarthy agreed.  Cervone said, “We just thought that she was so passionate about the trip and the project in general that she would be a really great asset to the chapter… It was great being able to experience her first trip with her.”  McCarthy is bringing ideas to the chapter and wants nothing more than to see the big spring trip run as smoothly as possible.

Sitting on a beach sounds appealing, but to people like Cervone and Varamo, nothing is stopping them from taking advantage of this amazing opportunity to build homes for others in need with their free time.  Varamo said, “I can go and take a week any time in my life and go and sit on a beach. This is probably going to be one of the last times in my life that I can use my time and help somebody else and get that feeling that is so indescribable and fulfilling…”  Both girls kept mentioning the feelings that they get when the project is finished and how it is something that someone needs to experience in order to understand. It’s so overwhelming that it keeps them coming back for more. Cervone concluded the interview by saying, “Our generation specifically is so self-oriented and so caught up in whatever their doing that they forget that there are people with real life hitting them in the face and we have the opportunity to help those people.”

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