When backpacks and binders are tossed aside for the long awaited spring break, students take different routes for their time off, whether traveling or helping others

By Josie Stewart and Elizabeth Lembach, ’21

As students search for a relaxing yet entertaining way to spend their spring break from the havoc of high school, they are faced with the decision of where to vacation. Popular spring break plans include staying in UA, traveling around the United States or visiting another country with friends and family.

While some students may pack their bags in preparation for a relaxing beach vacation surrounded by sun and sand, others are excited to spend their time off in a different way by helping impoverished families through a mission trip.

A Mission for Change

Often organized by religious groups or through school clubs, mission trips are a way for students to visit other states or countries to perform acts of service for those in need. They are often focused on manual labor such as building homes, cleaning up after a natural disaster or providing materials to poverty-stricken people. The trips are usually geared towards teenagers, and are sometimes used to promote spiritual growth and empowerment.

Mission trips focus on embracing local culture and tend to avoid the typical activities of a tourist. They aim to give travelers a hands-on, cultural experience that benefits both the visitors and the locals. According to an Arlingtonian survey of 239 students, 74 percent of UAHS students believe that mission trips achieve this goal and help those affected by poverty.

Seniors Ruby Durakovic and Shelby Wang attended a mission trip last year to an impoverished Native American reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota where they helped rebuild houses. The trip was planned through a high school youth group at Trinity United Methodist Church.

“I had an amazing experience, being able to see poverty firsthand and to help other people,” Durakovic said.

Wang mentioned the misconception that in order to participate in a mission trips one must be extremely religous.

“Even if you’re not religious, it’s still a really cool experience and anyone can go [on a mission trip],” Wang said.

Both Durakovic and Wang decided to go on the trip because both of their sisters were planning on attending also. 

Wang and Durakovic helped a family comprised of a mother, a father and two daughters by repairing the family’s house– rebuilding caving walls, replacing the dilapidated floor and painting.

Durakovic felt as her work had made an impact.

“I think [the family was] really appreciative of [the work we did], so I think they will definitely remember that. Maybe not me or the people I was with specifically, but the work we did for them to help them out,” Durakovic said.

Seniors Shelby Wang and Ruby Durakovic help rebuild the house of a family on their mission trip in South Dakota. Photo courtesy Shelby Wang

Senior Hannah Dible is another student who has chosen mission trips over beach vacations for her spring break destination. “I was already fairly involved with the church that I went on the mission trip with. I heard about it through other people and went to help with the parish,” Dible said. Dible has been on one ten-day mission trip in Mexico and an eight-day trip to the Dominican Republic.

Similar to the work of Wang and Durakovic, Dible worked on building houses for families in need in Mexico. According to Dible, the manual labor in Mexico was exhausting.  However, on her second trip, she enjoyed working with the local children. She taught at a orphanage and learned about the local children’s environment.

“The second mission trip I went to was in the Dominican Republic and we taught kids in an orphanage. That was more of just being present and playing with the kids, and it was a really fun and interesting experience,” Dible said.

Other Side of Spring Break

It is common for UAHS students to travel to various destinations during their spring break. Usually these trips are taken with family. However, for some seniors, these trips are taken with a group of friends rather than adult family members.

For the upcoming break, Wang is dropping her construction gear and plans to join many of her friends on a trip to New York City for five days. Senior Gabe Bertke is traveling with Wang this break.

“I’m just excited to be on break with my friends and without my parents,” Bertke said.

The group plans to take a bus to the city together and back, and is traveling without parents, a trend becoming popular for seniors at UAHS.

Senior Hannah Dible runs and plays with children on one of her two mission trips. Simply learning about environments and playing with children are common on trips such as these. Photo courtesy Hannah Dible

Unlike Wang’s mission trip experience, her vacation in New York

City entails staying on the Upper East Side, visiting many tourist attractions, simply walking around and exploring the city and enjoying her time off with friends.

Like a majority of UAHS students, senior Julia Boyer enjoys the classic spring break vacation. Boyer and five of her friends, along with a few of their parents, are staying at a resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Similar to Wang and her friends, typical tourist activities fill Boyer’s agenda. Her schedule includes scuba diving, ziplining and swimming.

“It’s kind of a senior tradition, so I’m very excited. I think it’s just going to be a very fun time to spend a week in Punta Cana with a group of friends,” Boyer said.

Many other students, along with Boyer, Wang and Berkte look forward to their plans for break.

Options Abound

Mission trips have an appeal to those looking for a spring break that will fulfill both an urge to travel and to help those who in need. Whether this is two states over or on the other side of the world, mission trips are an option readily available to UAHS students.

Students interested in taking missions trips in the future may contact local religious institutions such as UALC, First Community Church or Rock City Church. Most offer domestic as well as international mission options.

Whether one chooses to soak up the sun in Punta Cana, rebuild houses on Native American reservations in South Dakota or even climb to the top of the Empire State Building, it is clear having a spring break full of new experiences and adventures can come in many different forms.