Service Trips: What? So What? Now What? : Making an Impact Through Service Learning

By: Meghan Browne

Some of my fondest memories at Whitman have been through the Service Trips program. From harvesting potatoes on an organic farm in Walla Walla, to helping low-income families pick up food from a food bank in Portland, to trekking the sand dunes of northern California to remove invasive Beach Grass and Ice Plant, I have had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences because of service learning. I am very honored that I have gotten to spend this past year planning the Spring Break Service Trips for fellow Whitman students and cannot wait to hear about their once-in-a-lifetime experiences when they return.

The four service trips gathered for Send Off Night on March 10th

The four service trips gathered for Send Off Night on March 10th to discuss trip planning and reflection.

The Whitman Service Trips program is a partner with a national alternative breaks organization called Break Away. We use their material when planning the trips, training leaders, and organizing large group events. My favorite thing learned from Break Away over the years has been their model for creating a successful and meaningful service-learning experience: What? So what? Now what? It challenges leaders and participants to identify a need in a community, think about why this need is important and why their participation with community organizations is necessary, and finally act on the need they see through service both during and after their service trip.

Planning these Spring Break Service Trips has come with its fair share of hiccups. At different points throughout the year we had to change the location of one trip, adjust the cost of another trip, and find new community partners for yet another trip ten days before the participants were actually supposed to leave for their week of service. When facing these problems I always asked myself these three questions, what? So what? Now what? to remind myself of the larger picture and to focus on the importance of community service, learning, making an impact, and facilitating these experiences for Whitman students.

Over the next week and a half, 54 participants will travel to Portland, New Orleans, Eugene, and Seattle. As these trips come to a close and everyone returns to Whitman, I look forward to the passion and excitement around what’s next for the Spring Break Service Trip participants and how their week of service will shape their time at Whitman.


Learn more about Service Trips.

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