Several community service-minded students from Rensselaer skipped a trip to the beach or time with family and friends and instead spent their spring break swinging hammers at a Habitat for Humanity project in Lenoir, N.C. Ten members of Rensselaer’s chapter of the Habitat for Humanity International organization participated in the annual Collegiate Challenge. From March 10 to March 14, the group worked alongside local volunteers and the future homeowners themselves to construct energy-efficient houses in Caldwell County, which is located in the foothills of western North Carolina.
“Having the opportunity to work with students from other colleges showed me how much people everywhere care about the current housing problems that exist today,” said David Jendras, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and the organization’s spring break coordinator. “There’s a sense of pride to be taken from the work done on the houses, especially when you know that you are helping someone in need.”
“I joined RPI Habitat for Humanity because I went on mission trips during the summer when I was in high school,” said Kyle Mattson, a first-year student from Honey Brook, Pa., who is a dual major in mechanical engineering and computer science. “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my spring break. The hospitality that we received was like no other, and all for just coming to help!”
Started in 1989, Collegiate Challenge is Habitat for Humanity’s year-round alternative break program that provides opportunities for students from youth groups, high schools, and colleges to spend a week of their school break building homes in partnership with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the United States. The program is coordinated through the Collegiate Challenge Team at Habitat for Humanity International in Americus, Ga.
This year, more than 12,000 students from more than 700 colleges, universities, and high schools will work at more than 250 sites nationwide for Collegiate Challenge. Collectively, the students have pledged to raise more than $1 million for the more than 200 affiliates that they are working with.
“Going to North Carolina certainly opened my eyes to one thing: the fact that there is always more work to be done,” said Tom Connolly, a first-year student from Stamford, Conn., who is majoring in chemical engineering. “The group that we worked with in Caldwell County has built numerous houses in the area, but there seems to be a never-ending list of people who need housing. Watching how efficiently we worked together has made me believe as long as this organization continues to get volunteers in the years to come, that there is nothing they won’t be able to accomplish.”
In May, several students plan to return to North Carolina to work on a “three-day blitz build” that will involve the framing of three homes. More than 80 volunteers from around the country are expected to attend.
In addition to participating in the annual Collegiate Challenge, the Rensselaer Habitat for Humanity Chapter has several local projects in the works, most notably the construction of a home at 11th and Jacob streets in Troy near Rensselaer’s campus. The chapter is currently building a house on the corner of 11th and Hutton streets in Troy in partnership with Rensselaer County Habitat for Humanity. This is the same site where two homes were completed last year. The current build is expected to be completed this semester. Plans for future homes have already been developed and should be ready to begin in fall 2008.
For more information about Rensselaer’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, go to http://habitat.union.rpi.edu/.
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