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Left to right: Zeeshan Chughtai, Abhinav Illendula, Jenna Kwiecinski, Brooke Braddock, Olivia Delorenzo, Laura Ciapetta, Prachi Pathak, Dominic Garcia, Keerthana Akkisetty, Kanika Jethani, Alyssa Kearney, Rasha Abouelsaadate, Anushri Nimbvikar, Julie Ing, Dr. Stephen Moelter
Fourteen first-year students from USciences Honors Program spent their spring break volunteering to help others as part of the Break a Difference program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, D.C.
Instead of relaxing on the couch or going on a beach vacation, the students rolled up their sleeves, helping to fix up the clubs and work hands-on with school-aged children.
“I bonded with the kids I was helping and it didn’t even feel like service or something I was required to do,” said Rasha Abouelsaadate PharmD’22.
The USciences students worked in small groups with students from other colleges and universities and were stationed at various Boys and Girls Clubs in the Greater Washington, D.C. area. During the day, the students worked on the facility—cleaning, repairing, organizing, and assembling things like basketball nets and bookcases. In the afternoons, they assisted staff with the club’s programs, working directly with kids ages 6 to 16, helping them with homework, crafts, music, and playing games.
“I didn’t want to sit around all spring break and be bored, which was bound to happen if I just went home, so I decided to put my time to good use, and in the end it was an eye opening experience,” said Alyssa Kearney PrePro’20.
The first-year honors students were awarded the MLK Jr. Leadership Award for their participation in the Break a Difference Program at the Department of Student Engagement’s Leadership Awards this month.
For the students, working directly with the children and helping to make the Boys and Girls Clubs a better place for them was the highlight of the trip.
“One of the most eye opening parts of this experience was meeting inspiring people who really gave me a new perspective on life,” said Keerthana Akkisetty PharmD’22. Akkisetty said one teacher, whom she described as a 5-and-a-half-foot force of nature, was so dedicated to the children that she went above and beyond her duties to help them, earning their love and respect, while also instilling a little fear of her, too.
Abouelsaadate said her “light bulb” moment of the trip came when she saw how grateful the children she was helping were to have her there to help them with their homework or just ask about their day.
“It really opened my eyes to the idea there is still hope that my generation, and hopefully many more to come, are deep down compassionate in our human spirit and care enough to check in on one another,” said Abouelsaadate. “More than anything, I made friends and memories.”