Service part of Wartburg heritage

Lauren Rupprecht helps at a Backpack Pack for kids who need food at home over the weekend.
Lauren Rupprecht helps at a Backpack Pack for kids who need food at home over the weekend.

Last school year, 120 students participated in service trips across Fall Break, Winter Break and Tour Week. Service, one of Wartburg’s four key pillars, is an important component of life on campus.

“It’s just rooted in our heritage, it’s who we are as a college,” said Kristen Tieg-Torres, Director of Community Engagement.

Tieg-Torres believes service is a core part of Wartburg because it’s prevalent in everything on campus, from the curriculum to student organizations.

“Some of the biggest help we received when the floods happened in September were sports teams,” she said. “It’s ingrained in our culture here.”

For students, Tieg-Torres said some of the easiest ways to get involved are through service trips or the Volunteer Action Center (VAC).

Service trips travel to different parts of the U.S. to serve in various communities.

Anna Askegaard, the student service trips director, said service trips are a great way to help people in need while also having fun and meeting new people. She also said there are various opportunities throughout the trips to help students go outside their comfort zones.

“Students gain a new understanding of the injustice in the world as well as gain the experiences that come with serving people less fortunate than themselves,” she said.

Service trips over Winter Break 2016 went to Florida to work at the Guadalupe Center and Tennessee to work on the Cumberland Trails. Other trips traveled to New York to work with education in public schools and Denver, Colorado to work with children in immigration. Askegaard said it’s inspiring to see so many students spend their breaks to serve in the world.

Junior Paige Nowaczyk went on her first service trip over Tour Week in 2016 and said she had an awesome experience. The trip traveled to Tennessee to work on the hiking trails. She said she didn’t know many people on her trip beforehand, but they developed great group chemistry by the end.

“Doing service was wonderful because everyone in the group was committed to working hard and we got to spend the week enjoying the outdoors,” Nowaczyk said.

To participate in service in local areas, students can go to the VAC. It has community partners in Waverly, Waterloo and surrounding communities for students to work with. They also plan events, such as the two weeks of service, St. Elizabeth’s Week and Martin Luther King Jr. Week. They also plan blood drives, which usually are held twice a year.

Katherine Bomgaars, student director of the VAC, said the community sends their requests to the VAC, which then reaches out and connects students to help those in need. Frequent requests come from Bremwood, local food banks and elderly community members.

During the flood last fall, Bomgaars said they received many requests for help. Because there was such a high need, she said they posted locations on their Facebook page so everyone would know where help was needed.

“I think when students volunteer they get a greater respect for other people’s needs,” she said. “It can be a transformative experience to not focus on oneself.”

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