"You've never truly lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you." This is a quote that describes my spring break perfectly. Instead of going to lie on a beach or sit at home, I choose to do something with my break; I choose to go on the Students Today Leaders Forever trip. STLF is an organization that was thought up by some UMTC students a few years ago. It is a bus trip that travels through cities volunteering and meets other STLF tours in the destination city. This year the UMR bus traveled through Chicago, IL, Detroit, MI, Canton, OH, Beckley, WV, Knoxville, TN, making our way to Atlanta, GA. We left Friday afternoon making our way to Chicago. There were 38 of us on the bus, not knowing each other very well, but ready to go on the adventure together.
In Chicago we slept in a YMCA gym that had lights that didn't shut off. That morning we got up and went to a nature reserve and cleared invasive species. After a few hours of cutting and chopping we got back on the bus to make our way to Detroit. As we traveled through the city you could see that it was a ghost town. Detroit was the most eye opening city we traveled to. We stayed in a church that served us Corn Beef for dinner and breakfast the next morning. We volunteered at a veteran's homeless shelter. That was an amazing experience. Some of us served breakfast and lunch while the rest of us made bags of toiletries and organized some storage areas. One of the men there came up to us and thanked us for going to school and going into the medical field. He told us to keep the nation healthy and keep up our good work. They sent us on our way to Canton, OH with snack bags that had hand written thank you notes.
In Canton we got to explore down town which had a really cool art district and an adorable coffee shop that we went to. That night we stayed at another YMCA that had lights that turn off! There, we prepared for our service activity, which was teaching 2nd and 5th graders Junior Achievement. Junior Achievement is about businesses and how they work so being health sciences majors this was a little challenging. When we got there all of the kids were happy to see us and learn about the things we were teaching. I taught a 2nd grade class and it was so fun. I'm glad it was only two hours though! Gained a lot of respect for elementary school teachers! After that we got back on the bus to travel to Beckley, WV! Beckley was the first city we went through that had weather above 40 degrees. It was like summer! We stayed in another church that night. The next morning we did service at a hospice care center doing various tasks. Some worked around the grounds and I worked on a mapping project, mapping the placement of memorial stones. They fed us lunch of Chick-fil-A, macaroni and cheese, and salad. I had never had Chick-fil-A before and it was so good! Then we set off for Knoxville!
In Knoxville we got to explore the city and eat dinner. A big group of us ate at Jig and Reel which was a Scottish Pub. It was pretty good! Then went to our housing cite which was a huge church. There was a band practicing there when we got there and they played for us. Then we played Sardines, like reverse hide and seek, in the giant, 4 story church. That morning we were volunteering with Keep America Beautiful cleaning up garbage around the city. In one little area we cleared out 15 bags of garbage! Then we filled on the bus to make our way to Atlanta, GA! In Atlanta we got to stay in hotel which was really nice after sleeping on the ground for a week. The first night we all went to a Waffle House; one of my favorite places ever. The next morning, all 160 of us from the 4 buses went to a park to help there. We all did different jobs, planting trees, building a fence, clearing a pathway, or cutting out invasive species. My friend Erica and I worked on clearing a path to an area that would be used by the local boy scouts. When we were finished we all ate lunch together. That night we had our celebration with the other 3 buses we met in Atlanta. We took the next two days to travel back to Rochester, staying in St. Louis on the way back.
Overall, STLF was the greatest experience I have ever had. I have done a lot of volunteering in my day but this has been the best opportunity, by far! This trip helped to open my eyes to many new things and I made 37 new friends out of it! I would totally recommend this trip to anyone that loves to volunteer and wants a little bit of adventure in their spring break! Yeahhhhh buddy!!!