STARKSBORO - Three area Johnson State College students have decided to have a different take on their upcoming spring break. Instead of heading for the wild, crazy beaches of Florida, or lazing around Vermont wishing for either more snow or more sunshine, they are giving their time and talents to help people less fortunate, traveling to places where a little help is a very big deal, and where they can make a difference in people's lives.
Samantha Flint of Starksboro, James Dempsey of Lincoln and Jon Willson of Middlebury have joined with other JSC students in the colleges chapter of Break Away: the Alternative Break Connection, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides training and information to colleges, universities and non-profit organizations nation-wide. According to Flint, Johnson State is a founding chapter of Break Away and has sponsored over one hundred Break Away trips to date.
Flint and Dempsey are team leaders this year and will accompany their group of 12 Johnson students to Chicago where they will embark on an ambitious itinerary of service. Nothing about the trip is luxurious- including the 16- hour Amtrak ride from Albany to the Windy City. They will stay in North Central City and will conduct urban poverty and community building work by volunteering at the Chicago Food Depository and Deborah's Place, a women's center where they will assist women with career skills and help them write resumes. They are also planning to work with the Chicago's Night Ministry, helping to deliver late-night meals to homeless teens and with REST (Residents for Effective Shelter Transitions) which offers temporary, interim and permanent housing to single homeless adults.
Last year, Flint and Dempsey, who are both Resident Assistants at Johnson, spent their break in New Orleans as part of a disaster relief group where they helped repair damaged housing. They are eagerly anticipating this year's trip to Chicago. "James and I are excited to be working together to facilitate a volunteer service trip that will meet the needs of the people of Chicago", says Flint. "In my family it's always been about helping the people around you and not just yourself. BreakAway is a great way to continue that on a national level."
Flint is definitely carrying on the family tradition of service and hard work. Her family started an event called the Three Day Stampede in Bristol that over the years has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that her twin sister Kayla was born with, so service and awareness are a big part of her life-style.
In addition to Flint and Dempsey's group, JCS is sending students to Georgia for Environmental protection work and to Tennessee, where they will be performing disaster relieve duties with the Native American population. The trips are paid for through fundraising and donations
Samantha Flint of Starksboro works to repair a house in hurricane ravaged New Orleans last year as part of the Johnson State College Break Away program.