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Students spend Spring Break helping homeless in San Francisco


In March a group of 16 students, faculty and staff from Illinois College went to San Francisco, Calif., for the Khalaf Al Habtoor Leadership Program Alternative Spring Break Trip.

Led by professor Kelly Dagan, senior Kathryn Stroud and AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Katie Brunk, the group spent the week with various nonprofit organizations, including Bayview Mission, Open Hand Food Pantry and the San Francisco Food Bank. All of these organizations have a mission that focus on aiding the homeless or those who have food insecurity in the Bay Area.

Before leaving for San Francisco, participants finished a minimum of eight hours of service in Jacksonville at the food center. Stroud also saw the trip as an opportunity to complete her senior capstone project.

“As a fellow in the Leadership Program, I had to complete a senior capstone project,” Stroud says. “I specifically picked San Francisco because the community we would be working with in that area would be homeless and/or food insecure. For the past three and a half years, my focus in terms of volunteering and researching has been mostly on economic disadvantages and social stratification.”

This trip also gave the group an excellent opportunity to connect with new people, places and cultures.

“I always gain a better understanding of what life is like for others. The conversations I have with other volunteers and clients I have served nearly always lead to personal growth and understanding,” Brunk says. “I've traveled to other places and just done sightseeing and typical tourist activities. I have never connected with those places as deeply as I have with places I've done service in. The people and stories I remember the most from traveling are the ones I've learned from through service.”

As the director of service-learning, Dagan believes that we learn a tremendous amount about our society, policies and ourselves when we are civically engaged.

“Societies function best when people think beyond themselves and act in positive ways to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” Dagan says. “We don't exist alone, we all depend on each other in numerous ways, and we should all be willing to make positive contributions. Engaging in service provides us with information we didn't have before, leads us to ask questions we wouldn't have asked before, and encourages us to think about solutions to any number of issues facing our society.”

The other students who participated in the alternative Spring Break included:

Jessica Bartlett ’14 of Riverton
Sonya Boykin ’16 of Chicago
Kelsey Davis ’15 of Heyworth
Lauren Gaudette ’15 of Livingston
Danae James ’14 of Springfield
Mary Lewis ’15 of Gladstone
Kelly McCormick ’14 of Godfrey
Carlie Sides ’16 of Meredosia
Hannah Strike ’16 of Prophetstown
Courtney Utsinger ’17 of Ellisville
Victoria Wynecoop ’17 of Wellpinit, Wa.
Amy Zahner ’15 of Alton
Nathan Zimmerman ’16 of Mt. Sterling
To view photos of the alternative Spring Break trip visit the Leadership Program's Facebook page.
About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Ill. With an enrollment of about 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs and a Master of Arts in Education degree program. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit or call 217-245-3467 for more information.

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