My first ever immersion trip was to Dallas last year, Spring Break 2016, as a participant. My second trip was to Kansas City this past fall. And now this is my third, and maybe final, immersion trip that I’ve gone on with Bear Breaks (only because of a busy upcoming fall with being in the university’s marching band and me student teaching the following spring). From my first trip to this one, I’ve always found myself becoming reflective near the end of the trip. It’s not been a public reflection, instead it’s been one that I’ve shared to myself or have blogged about on here in order to properly process all of my thoughts, emotions and feelings.
So before reading any more, realize that this blog post will be the exact same. There might be some emotional sections, but nothing too dramatic or cheesy, I promise.
Throughout these trips, I’ve come to learn a lot about service and social issues, specifically the guiding factors that have influence and effect on children, as that has been the focus of each of my trips. Even though I haven’t been able to experience a trip with a different social issue, there are common themes among any social issue and the service that affects it. First and foremost, community is the driving force that is at the center of any social issue. It’s hard to have a social issue that isn’t about community, even topics such as Animal Rights is related to how we as communities interact with and treat animals around us. That being said, we cannot ignore the positive impact that community has on us. We are only connected through community, we are only connected through the bonds of similarities we have, but we are also connected through our diverse differences. Yes, we all have similarities that connect us. These may be values and morals, language, food, geographic location, ideas, religion and much, much more. But we also have differences in all of these areas as well. And that’s okay. Our differences allow us to expand our world view to better understand each other. A celebration of both similarities and differences is what makes communities strong.
Although this expanding understanding of social issues, service and community has been the overarching theme of my time with Bear Breaks, it has not been the only thing I have learned from them. This recent Dallas trip has been very different than past ones, as I was a co-trip leader with Sarah Harp. First, planning the trip as a co-trip leader was WAY different than being a co-trip leader during the actual trip. Although our advisors and Exec board did a great job preparing us for the trips, nothing could have accurately prepared us to lead in the week. It was a lot of thinking on our feet, crazy amounts of variables, laughing, stress, and every thing in between. As a co-trip leader, our focus shifts from understanding social issues and how service positively impacts ourselves and the community, to facilitating not only the logistics of the trip, but leading our participants to understand what their role is in service and the social issue at play. It’s a lot different. A lot more to worry about. But nothing could have been more rewarding. None of us trip leaders would say that the job was easy, but none of us would say that we didn’t grow in one way or another. Some of us were pushed to equally and collaboratively work on trip planning, others were faced with trying to help participants bond, and some of us were encouraged to learn as we lead trips over social issues in which we had no previous experience. Being a trip leader has pushed me out of my comfort zone in order to grow in areas that I never have before. And you know what’s the craziest part about all of this? Bear Breaks is in it’s FIFTH YEAR of existence at Missouri State. We had 7 Spring trips and 2 Fall trips with over 100 applicants in JUST FIVE YEARS. If that doesn’t blow your mind and make you want to yell “Go Bears!” at the top of your lungs, then I don’t know what will. Everything about this organization screams what it means to be a Missouri State Bear. The sacrifices we have put in with the education we have gotten out of it, all combined with the positive community impact, defines us as Missouri State Bears, Active Citizens and agents of social change. If you are reading this and are a student, get involved with Bear Breaks because it will make a difference in your life that you will never fully realize. If you’re an alumni, then be proud of your Alma Mater. If you’re a faculty or staff, then understand how your institution is furthering its values through the Public Affairs Mission. If you’re a parent, understand how much of a difference your child’s university can make. If you’re anyone outside of those categories, then understand how being a Missouri State Bear is more than just attending classes at the university. I talked about the power of community in regards to social issues a lot. But something to keep in mind: it is through our effort as a Missouri State community that we are able to positively impact other communities.
“Individually, we make a difference. Together, we make an impact.” – Jeff Kirscher