A Larger Than Life Experience – Ashlyn Peterson

I grew up in Madison, Missouri with a population of 556. My high school was Preschool-12th Grade with approximately two hundred students in attendance. As you can imagine, throughout high school I was very involved. I was a member and officer of every organization and program our school offered, while being a full time student. Coming into my freshman year here at Northwest I knew my courses weren’t going to allow me that same level of involvement so decision were going to have to be made. When I found Alternative Spring Break, I knew I had found my home. Service has been the largest building block in who I am today. From a young age with my involvement in both my local youth group and 4-H club I fell in love with the idea of being a servant to those in need. As first semester faded into second, my excitement to be serving others with likeminded college students was beyond borders.

On Monday as we sat at breakfast, a gentlemen by the name of Dave joined us. He introduced himself as a local and immediately began explaining the devastation of Hurricane Florence. Him and his wife were fortunate enough to escape major damage and had been housing families in their homes for the last six months. His role as a chaplain and position as a local made volunteering each week an easy decision. As of this month there are still 2,300 individuals displaced from their homes and he was fortunate enough to be the site manager for a sweet elderly woman’s home. She was living four hours away in Charlotte with her daughter and was coming back on the weekends to see the progress on her home. Although we hadn’t begun our work Dave began thanking us for spending our break helping his people. It was in these moments at our first breakfast that I truly understood the impact our gift of service was going to make.

As we received our assignment for the week, I was in shock as we had been assigned the sweet elderly woman’s house Dave had described at breakfast. Our task was to sheetrock the house so final steps could be taken to get the woman back to living at home. Those of you who know me, know I am by no means a handy woman. I was a bit uneasy about being equip with such a task but I was up for the challenge of learning something new. After tutorials from Dave, trial, and error each of us soon found where we best fit into the hanging of sheet rock puzzle. Each day presented new challenges, new solutions, new skills, and new memories with the most incredible people. By the end of our workday Thursday we had the entire house sheet rocked (minus one wall). We all came together as a team to work for the good of something so much greater than ourselves. Even though I won’t be trading college for construction anytime soon, I genuinely enjoyed adding another skill to my tool belt. I had the most laughs and experienced the most memorable moments around some of the best Bearcats I could know.

While we all come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and are studying a variety of subjects, we as a Bearcat family have one thing in common- our hearts. I could not have imagined spending my week of spring break doing anything else with any other group of people. This experience was eye-opening, impactful, and incredible. I will definitely be continuing my membership and would encourage every student at Northwest to consider the opportunity!