Grand Junction Teens Taking Different Kind of Spring Break Trip

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

With Spring Break just around the corner, many students minds are on the beach, the sun, and getting away from it all. But one local group of students says all they're thinking about is what they can do to make a difference in a place devastated by one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

On Sunday Grand Junction teens Andy Kucel, Demi Ruder, and Brian Kucel were doing community service, helping one woman clean up her yard -- gearing up for Spring Break when they'll be working in and cleaning up something much bigger.

"It's just so cool to have this opportunity to go down south and help them out," said Andy Kucel.

The three teens, who are part of the Redlands Church of the Nativity youth group, will be spending their week in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi -- a coastal community left devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"It's one thing to see it on TV and fee bad for the people, but it's another thing to go out and do what we can for each other," said Ruder.

No one knows that better than church member Susan Wiseman, who will be making her sixth volunteer trip down to the Gulf Coast when she and the group go there next week. She says even three and a half years after the hurricane hit, 2,000 families in Coastal Mississippi still have no homes and are living in FEMA trailers.

"Businesses are coming back, cleanup has happened, but there is still a considerable amount of work to do," said Wiseman.

The teens say listening to Wiseman's stories and looking at the pictures she's taken from her trips have been eye-opening experiences.

"I actually had no idea what happened in Mississippi because we only heard about Louisiana," said Andy Kucel. "So to know that we still have the opportunity to help out is life changing."

They say they can't wait to get down there and get to work.

"I've always wanted to help them out down there," said Brian Kucel. "I felt really bad when it happened, I felt useless. So I'm glad I have the chance to go down there and help them."

The teens say having an impact on someone's life is what they hope to get out of the trip. Speaking from personal experience, Wiseman says she knows they'll come back with a lot more than that.

"I think it changes your heart and it changes your mind," said Wiseman. "They will also be impacted and they will learn the importance of looking outside of yourself."

The group will be in Mississippi from March 9 through March 13. They will be serving with nearly 1,000 other volunteers who will also be making the trip.

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