By Sadie Hughes
Ten Utah State University students and one faculty member returned on Saturday after spending a week serving poverty-stricken people in San Francisco.
Alternative Breaks, an organization that offers ways to spend fall or spring break, organized the trip through the Val R. Christensen Service Center. Kate Stephens, the assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning, was the faculty adviser for the trip. Nine students were chosen to go and were led by Stephens and Aubree Payne, the student director of Alternative Breaks.
“Each trip has a focus,” Stephens said. “This year, we had three trips during spring break.” Urban poverty was the focus for the San Francisco trip. Refugees and immigration were focuses in San Diego, and environmental conservation was the theme of a trip to Moab.
After a 12-hour drive on March 7, the students began their work at organizations including the Glide Foundation, Project Open Hand, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the San Francisco Marin Food Bank.
“USU students were able to witness urban poverty and actually do something about it,” Stephens said.
According to Stephens, the students interacted with people who were homeless, sick, disabled or elderly. They packaged 18,000 oranges to be distributed throughout the city, served meals to people and sorted food that would be made available for those who needed it.
“What was particularly unique was we were able to stay at a hostel located right in the heart of San Francisco,” Payne said. “This meant we were literally surrounded by those we were serving.”
The students were also able to explore tourist sites in the city including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
Karlee Peterson, a student who went on the trip, said she gained a lot of perspective as she served. “The sidewalks were always filled with homeless people sitting or begging for money,” she said.
“At the Glide Foundation, I was serving in a smaller room for elderly and disabled patrons,” Peterson said. “It was really eye-opening and sad to see all these people who would have no where nowhere else to go, no where nowhere else to eat if Glide did not exist.”
Stephens has been a faculty adviser for three other trips, but this trip to San Francisco reminded her that “poverty in America is very real.”
“I have learned that it takes a whole community to make amazing things happen,” Payne said. She was impressed by the dedication of the organizations the students worked with in San Francisco. “They were really passionate about their cause and it makes me want to be more like them,” Payne said.
According to Payne, several of the students who went on the trip now plan to get more involved in service opportunities at USU. “I believe it opened their eyes to the need of not only San Francisco but Logan as well,” Payne said.
“It was the perfect combination of being able to do something meaningful and having a purpose, but still being able to have an exciting and fun break,” Peterson said.