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Building more than a house
Students travel to Tacoma, Wash., for AACC's first Habitat for Humanity trip

Neil Sullivan, 19, didn't expect his experience at Anne Arundel Community College to be quite like one he might find at a four-year school. But that didn't stop him from taking advantage of the opportunities – some unexpected – that came his way.

During spring break, he had the chance to work side-by-side with students from the University of Connecticut, among others, when he signed up for AACC's first Habitat for Humanity trip to Tacoma, Wash. He gained a lot from the experience and said while he's volunteered at food pantries and done other service work in the past, nothing has been on such a big scale.

"The Habitat experience was amazing," he said. "Everything went very smoothly and the Habitat site managers all had a wealth of experience, and not just in construction. They also had personally seen families earn the houses they ended up living in."

Sullivan, vice president of the Student Government Association, joined nine other students for the trip led by AACC Student Engagement program coordinator Steve Kreider. They worked on houses in two communities doing everything from tile and foundation work to siding and landscaping.

Student Amaris Cyrus hard at work.
Kreider, who joined the college a year ago and has been on Habitat trips in the past, said he was tasked with coming up with new ideas and experiences for AACC students. He added this is not the kind of experience most expect to find at a community college.

"Sometimes our students may feel like they're not getting the same experience as students at a four-year (school) are getting," he said. "Being able to do something like this that a lot of four-year students get to do, it was really rewarding."

For Taylor Clark, a 22-year-old business administration major who was thinking about joining AmeriCorps, the trip definitely made an impact. "It was so cool getting to know the people, grouting for the first time, seeing what a house looked like from the foundation and framework," she said. "And it was so great getting to meet the families. It makes you really appreciate what you have."

Clark has had her own housing challenges.

Before coming to AACC, she lived in a two-bedroom apartment in New York with nine other family members, making the Habitat experience even more meaningful for her. She said she also was also struck by how much those working on the projects cared about the quality.

The trip let her see what it was like to go away and do community service.

"They wanted the houses to look the best they could and didn't want anything to look like it wasn't going to last," she said. "They didn't cut corners. They did it with passion because they really want the families to be comfortable. It's very unifying."

Most of the trip expenses were covered through student engagement fees, with students only needing to contribute $200 of their own. Kreider said the students got a lot out of the experience, and he plans to coordinate more Habitat trips in the future.

"For many of our students, it was their first time on planes or getting to fly to the west coast," he said. "They built a lot of good relationships, and they saw how important it is to serve others and how you can make a difference just as one person."

Check out these photos of the trip from an AACC Student Engagement Facebook photo album.

 
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