Huntington, Ind.—Huntington University’s Stephanie Bills, a senior education major from Lagrange, Ind., wanted to serve others during her final college spring break but couldn’t because her student teaching assignment requires that she take her break with the public school where she teaches.
Instead of allowing that to discourage her, Bills gathered information and organized a special ministry opportunity just for student teachers. The first week of April, she and approximately 15 other student teachers will travel to Mississippi to assist in clean-up efforts in the Biloxi area. They will be working with Hands-On America, the long-term branch of Hands-On USA, the same organization that worked with Huntington University volunteers during January term.
The student teachers will focus their volunteer service on education. In addition to serving where needed in clean-up, the HU team will work to make a difference for the school children and teachers in the area. Many schools were damaged and many completely destroyed. Libraries, classroom resources, and teachers’ instructional materials were lost. Many of these items are typically purchased with special funds from organizations like the Parent-Teacher Association or with teachers’ personal funds. So, in a time when there is so much to rebuild, it is likely that these items will not be replaced for quite awhile.
Along with the help of their faculty advisor, they have contacted many local service organizations, corporations and the local school district to try to build a community partnership to provide lost resources and build long-term connections community to community, school to school, teacher to teacher, and student to student.
Monetary donations as well as supplies are needed. Anyone would like to be a part of this ministry opportunity may contact Stephanie Bills (student organizer) at email@example.com, Professor Susie Burson (faculty advisor) at (260) 359-4150 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or any of the current student teachers from Huntington University.
Comments from Professor Susie Burson, faculty advisor:
"Thanks again to all who supported the student teacher group that went to Biloxi and New Orleans or prayed for us while we were gone. We saw amazing devastation, but also a great spirit of hope and rebuilding among the people we served. We didn’t make a big difference in the grand scheme of things, but to those we helped, it was a big difference. Ask any of the participants to share their stories and photos.
The students who participated on the trip were incredible. They represented us well with their hard work, great attitudes and obvious servant hearts. I heard consistent praise for their willingness to do whatever was asked of them. One woman said, “I have never seen such a group of wholesome young people.” She was right. When others were getting ready for a night out on the town, our kids were participating in praise and worship. They made me proud to be their sponsor! I felt so blessed to be a part of this experience.
Thanks again for supporting us. It was good to know that we were being prayed for while we were there. On our trip home, we missed tornados behind us on the southern end of Tennessee and before us around Nashville. There were multiple tornados across the state that day and many lives lost. But, we were sheltered from the storm and missed the most severe conditions. After sitting in traffic for more than four hours, we found the reason was that a tornado had crossed the highway and taken out a huge church just a stone’s throw off the road. That was eerie, especially after all we had seen along the Gulf. We felt the Lord’s protection and your prayers."