BY: BECCA KARPENKO
Over Winter Break, many college students caught up on sleep, took J-term classes, or worked at various jobs. Others, however, used their time in a unique way.
Joe Zielinski ‘17 was one of 91 St. Norbert students who participated in the TRIPS alternative break service program. TRIPS stands for Turning Responsibility into Powerful Service. It is a program that challenges college students to address the shared needs of various communities around the United States through direct service.
Joe traveled with a team of 11 other SNC students to Philadelphia, PA on the Urban Poverty Trip. Participants served at Our Brothers’ Place, a homeless shelter that serves the needs of 300 men.
Out of all the service the students engaged in at the shelter, one special memory stands out for Joe.
“We were in the basement sorting clothes that were donated,” explains Joe.
Joe was approached by one of the shelter workers for a special project. Tyrone, one of the men staying at the shelter, needed an outfit for his interview the following day.
As Joe helped Tyrone sort through the clothes in the basement of the shelter, Tyrone was able to find a shirt, shoes, and a belt that fit him. He only needed pants, of which there was a stack of about 5 or 6 pairs.
“I asked him his pants size, and tried finding one that would fit,” said Joe.
The pants that they found, however, did not fit Tyrone nor were they the correct attire for an interview.
“There was nothing close to his size. He needed to look nice for his interview,” stated Joe. “I asked him his size again. It finally clicked. That was the same size I wore.”
“I went in the back, changed into a pair of pants that had been donated to the shelter, and gave my pants to Tyrone. He didn’t want to take them at first,” explained Joe “But they fit him perfectly.”
Joe has always grown up with a heart for service, but this was his first trip with the TRIPS program. Never having experienced homelessness first-hand, he was interested in learning about this social justice issue in order to clear up his pre-conceived notions about those who experience homelessness.
“They’re people just like you and I,” commented Joe regarding his new perspective. Joe was able to see the men as individuals rather than being lumped into a group.
“The population they are in doesn’t define their story or circumstance,” clarified Joe.
Joe advises other students to pursue service and find a passion in serving.
“Sit and reflect upon what really tugs at your heartstrings. That’s your calling. That’s God speaking to you,” explained Joe.
There are many different opportunities for students to learn about a specific social justice issue through TRIPS. Although service doesn’t necessarily have to be a trip, there is no better way to learn about a social justice issue than to dedicate a period of time to direct service-learning.
“Give of what you can,” said Joe. “Some people fear they don’t have something to give. Just give of yourself.”
During Spring Break, six groups of TRIPS participants will be giving of themselves by dedicating their time to learn about a community need. Read their stories and much more on the TRIPS blog or visit the TRIPS Facebook page to stay informed.