Students sweat on spring break

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — This year, spring break looks different than usual for about 150 Rowan-Cabarrus Community College students.
Instead of jumping in the car for a road trip to a tropical locale or sleeping in, the students are doing things like packing meals for the hungry and putting some elbow grease into washing ambulances.
“We wanted to volunteer because if we didn’t come out, we would probably just be at home watching TV,” Elizabeth Brown, a junior in the Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College program at the college’s South campus said Monday while soaping up an ambulance.
The college is playing host to its first alternative spring break this week, asking students to volunteer their time doing a variety of community service projects.
“We’ve seen an increase in on-campus community service throughout the years, so we felt like we needed to give (students) an opportunity to volunteer off campus,” said Natasha Lipscomb, director of student life and leadership. “We decided to take care of home first because there is so much need in Rowan and Cabarrus counties.”
More than 20 students gathered at the Rowan County Rescue Squad headquarters on Julian Road to vacuum, wash, dry and wax about eight ambulances and crash trucks Monday.
That’s a job Assistant Chief Eddie Cress said typically takes a four-man crew an entire day.
“With a fleet of 25 trucks, it’s very hard to get everything waxed, detailed and maintained,” he said. “So when United Way called and asked if I would be interested in this project, I immediately said yes.”
The work used to be done by a group of prisoners twice a year, but that program was eliminated several years ago, Cress said.
“We’re lucky to get it done one time a year now,” he said.
Cress said he was “very impressed” to see a group of students take time out of their break to lend a hand.
“It says a lot for their character,” he said. “I’m excited about it, and they all seem pretty enthusiastic about doing it.”
Angie Vasquez, a junior at the early college, said she felt it was important to come out and get her hands dirty because it’s not something she sees many students her age doing.
“A lot of them would rather stay home and be on Facebook and Twitter or watching YouTube videos,” she said. “This is a way to experience more of the world than what’s behind the computer screen.”
Miles Baker, another early college student, said he sees the value in making sure the ambulances are clean and ready to roll.
“If somebody is going to save somebody else’s life, they should do it in style, and they should at least have a clean ride to the hospital,” he said.
Nearly 60 students arrived at the college’s South campus at 9 a.m. Monday to pack meals to send to Haiti through Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief agency.
“We were impressed so many students showed up on the first day of break so early in the morning,” Lipscomb said.
In less than two hours, the group packed more than 10,000 meals consisting of rice, vegetable protein and dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin and mineral supplement. The meals cost about 25 cents each and have been distributed in 72 countries.
Students Hali Carter and James Boykin admitted they showed up to the Stop Hunger Now packing event to get some extra credit for class. But the two said they took more from the experience than a higher grade.
“It feels good to know that you’ve helped people,” Carter said.
Boykin said he expected the event to be boring, but found quite the opposite was true.
“It ended up being pretty fun,” he said. “It’s neat that we can save lives just by packing meals.”
Candice Daughtery, a student at the South Campus, said she felt it was her duty to lend a hand.
“I see it as a way to pay it forward because we’re so fortunate,” she said.
On Tuesday, students framed walls at a new Habitat for Humanity home in Spencer and tested electronic devices for recycling at the S.T.A.R.S. (Student Training and Recycling Service) program in Kannapolis.
They’ll visit senior citizens and lead bingo at the Coltrane LIFE Center in Salisbury from 9 a.m. to noon today.
The alternative spring break will come to an end Thursday with students reading to children at Concord Children’s Academy from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.