Service Trips - Service Trips to Service Lifestyle

By Kenna Little May 1, 2013

1,352 days ago, I stepped foot on Whitman's campus. I was a terrified freshman, unsure of how I would find my place on this "big," scary campus and nervous that Whitman would not shape me in the way that everyone says that college does. I was anxious to get involved in every possible club and organization so as to maximize the friend potential. I figured I could get a head-start on the whole friend-making business by signing up for the Food & Hunger SCORE where I could meet new people and get comfortable in Walla Walla. Not only did that happen, but it laid the groundwork for the rest of my time at Whitman. I was shocked by the social issues present in Walla Walla and instantly felt drawn to use Whitman as a tool to get out and serve the greater community. 

During my first couple weeks at school, my SCORE leaders saw my desire to serve, but how I was overwhelmed by the options at Whitman. They helped me reflect on what I wanted my Whitman experience to be and showed me that it was possible to do it all; they were members of sororities, IM Football champions, outdoors enthusiasts, supportive friends, and interns in the Community Service Office. I wanted to be just like them.

Freshman year they motivated me to get involved with many of the community service programs as well as to go on a Spring Break Service Trip. My experience on SCORE left me with unique friendships, great role models, and a new perspective on a topic that I had never previously considered and so I was hooked. I traveled to New Orleans for a week of Hurricane Katrina relief and was touched in a way that service work never had before. Talking to the homeowners of the house we were working on, looking out at the Mississippi as we walked along the levees, and hearing story after story of destruction and feelings of abandonment shook me to my core. How could I have not have come sooner? How is this one week enough? How can I help solve the problem at the root level?

I wrestled with these questions all week and they continued for months after I returned to Washington. So much so, that the following year I applied to lead the same trip to New Orleans. I wanted to return to the city that I now felt was a piece of me. I wanted to expand upon and share my knowledge of the issues surrounding New Orleans and create the type of trip that would ignite a passion that would make participants question themselves and society in a way that was similar to what I experienced the year before. In leading the trip, I was able to dedicate myself to a week of hard labor, participate in some of the most insightful and thought-provoking discussions about race, class, and government that I have ever heard, and the most rewarding: I was able to watch as first-time participants fell in love with the city and people of New Orleans.

Coming back from study abroad and looking towards senior year, I thought about how my final year could serve as a culmination of my involvement with service trips at Whitman. It seemed like the natural next step to apply for the Service Trips Intern position. Through Whitman's service trips I have gained best friends, hilarious memories, new skills, and a deeper awareness of my role as a global citizen. It has helped me realize that service can, and should, continue to be a passion of mine and an ideal for how I want to live. 1,352 days ago I stepped onto Whitman's campus ready to serve for a week. In 18 days I will leave Whitman ready to serve for a lifetime.