Students spending spring break in service activities

Several dozen Western Carolina University students and faculty will travel to Baltimore, Jamaica and other communities to spend part of their spring break, which runs from Monday, March 25, to Friday, March 29, participating in service activities.

Twenty-two participants in the alternative spring break program sponsored by WCU’s Center for Service Learning and Last Minute Productions will travel to Baltimore. The group will work with Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake; Helping Up Mission, a homeless shelter and addiction recovery program founded in 1885; Manna House homeless shelter, and the Maryland Food Bank.

Kaleb Ticknor, a freshman from Moore County majoring in emergency medical care, said he chose to participate after an alternative fall break trip to Nashville proved to be “a wonderful blend of service and fun.”

“Hearing about the service trip was more than enough incentive for me to want to go; that I would get to see Nashville was an added bonus,” said Ticknor, who is a member of WCU’s Honors College. “Now I am looking forward to going to Baltimore to be part of a group that will represent WCU through service.”

Meanwhile, another contingent of students, faculty and an alumnus will travel to Jamaica to participate in a range of service learning projects benefitting schools, medical clinics, nongovernmental organizations and orphanages. The groups gathered donations of items from shoes, which children must have to attend school, to first-aid kits, to distribute.

Also, David Westling, WCU’s Adelaide Worth Daniels Distinguished Professor, and Larry Fisher, a graduate of WCU’s special education program and teacher in Buncombe County, will conduct assessments with children who have severe and profound disabilities at a residential facility. In addition, Westling will hold workshops for teachers.

Michael McDonald, a political science and public affairs instructor and faculty sponsor for the trip, said the experience is eye-opening for students who have been taught about less developed countries but do not know what it is like to live in poverty.

“Students come back with a much broader worldview and sense of global citizenship,” said McDonald.

Still other students and faculty will be participating in alternative activities coordinated by campus ministry programs. The WCU Wesley Foundation will return to the Rabinal community in Guatemala where a group of WCU students spent spring break last year. In addition to general service, the group will host a dental clinic. Dr. Eric Morrison, a dentist in Waynesville, and his wife, Arika Morrison, a counselor with WCU student support services, will travel with the group.

“People in Rabinal do not have access to dental care,” said Jennifer Hinton, associate professor of recreational therapy and wife of Jay Hinton, director of the WCU Wesley Foundation.

Molly Leikam, a senior from Gastonia majoring in psychology and social work, said the trip will be her fourth alternative break.

“I love planning service trips, and when Jay told me about this one I jumped at the chance to gain more experience leading groups,” said Leikam.

For more information about the Baltimore program, contact Jennifer Cooper in the Center for Service Learning at 828-227-2595 or For more information about the Jamaica program, contact Victoria Faircloth from the College of Education and Allied Professions at victoria@wcu.wcu or 828-227-3342. For more information about the Guatemala program, contact Jay Hinton at