Summer Reflection Blogger: Emily Vetter

Editor’s Note:  This summer we asked a few former TRIPS participants and leaders to reflect on their experiences with the TRIPS Program.  This post is the third in a series of reflections written by these individuals.  Thank you to Emily Vetter for spending some of your summer break reflecting on your experiences.

“I have always been a people pleaser, so whenever I can make someone else feel good, I believe I am truly at my best. Service, especially through the TRIPS Program, allows me to do just this. I am able to give my time to those in need. We waste so much of our days thinking about ourselves, when it only takes a small portion of time to help those around us. I have been extremely fortunate to help those around me by being a participant on the Affordable Housing  trip to Little Rock, Arkansas my freshman year, and by leading the Elderly Outreach trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina my sophomore year. I am looking forward to continuing to make  impacts in the lives around me while leading the Children’s Medical trip to Memphis, Tennessee this winter.

I have participated on mission trips prior to my first service trip through St. Norbert, however  I was excited to embark on a new journey to Little Rock. This trip focused on the social justice issue of Affordable Housing. During my week in Arkansas, my group and I spent our time at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and on a build site. At the Restore, we helped organize donations, build walls for more space to be used for retail, and build tables, among other various tasks. At the build site, we helped put up the interior walls of a new home. It is so difficult to pick only  one of my favorite experiences from this trip, but a time that I really enjoyed was being on the  build site with the “Over the Hill Gang.” The men who accompanied us at the house were mostly  retired older gentlemen who did not care that some of us had never done this kind of work; instead, they patiently explained how to do a task and waited for us to complete it. This kind of compassion and willingness to serve was truly impactful.

I believe that each trip gives us the opportunity to grow, and this continued to be true as I lead the Elderly Outreach trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina. My amazing experience the year before was a major factor that encouraged me to apply for a leadership position. Prior to my trips’ departure, I encountered some hardships, however, I could not have asked for a better group. While in South Carolina, my group volunteered for Christmas in Action, and was split up  between two different work sites. One site included the complete remodel of a bathroom and the  other was comprised of cool-sealing the roof of a mobile home and building a handicap ramp. Although we were split during our service, we were able to come together at the end of the day and share our different experiences. We were also able to interact with students from Iowa State University who were completing service through Christmas in Action in the same area. This trip gave me the opportunity to reflect on my leadership style and to, again, be pushed outside of my comfort


Although my trips have dealt with different social justice issues, there was plenty laughing, bonding, smiling, reflecting, and, most importantly, serving involved. It is astonishing to see  how many strong relationships you can create through this opportunity. I have made some life-long friends through my service and find it difficult to visualize my life at St. Norbert without them. However, the relationships formed do not only include those made between students, but  also with all of the community members we have the privilege to serve. The immense gratitude that is shown throughout the week while we are there is what makes the long car rides, early mornings, and late nights, so worthwhile. Knowing all of this makes me even more excited to tackle another social justice issue with the Children’s Medical trip. Previously, I have been able to serve by doing physical labor, but now I am thrilled to delve deeper into the relationship aspect of service.

Coming to St. Norbert, I never imagined I would become a part of a program that would mean so much to me. The TRIPS Program allows for so many students to step outside of their comfort zones and experience unfamiliar things that seriously touch them in ways you could never envision. The amount you can accomplish in a few short days is unfathomable, and when I reflect on what my groups were able to do, I am just awe-struck. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in, and lead, unbelievable trips, and I know that my time at St. Norbert would be completely different had I not challenged myself to tap into parts of me that can only be utilized in this kind of atmosphere. I am forever appreciative for the experiences I have been able to gain through the TRIPS program, and cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me, and my desire to serve others.”

Emily Vetter

Summer Reflection Blogger: Olivia Koehn

Editor’s Note:  This summer we asked a few former TRIPS participants and leaders to reflect on their experiences with the TRIPS Program.  This post is the second in a series of reflections written by these individuals.  Thank you to Olivia Koehn for spending some of your summer break reflecting on your experiences.

Here’s Olivia’s reflection about her two experiences on service trips with the TRIPS Program. 

“During my time at St. Norbert College I have gone on two service trips through the TRIPS Program and have had a wonderful time learning from both. My freshman year I was a participant on the Children’s Medical trip to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and sophomore year I traveled to Matagalpa, Nicaragua, on the International Medicine trip. I am very excited to lead the Children’s Medical trip to Iowa City, Iowa, and be able to gain new experiences in a similar environment to my first Children’s Medical trip.

The best part about the trips I have been on is the ability to interact with community members and families in the areas in which you are working. In the children’s hospital we were able to play with the children and make their days a little brighter, as well as bring families smaller toiletries, such as toothpaste and shampoo, to help if they had not been able to go home for several days. One of my favorite memories from this trip is playing with a beautiful little girl before she went into surgery, and then seeing her leave to go home a couple days later. Nearly everyone we met was overwhelmingly appreciative, and it was a great feeling to know we were making a difference with our short time in the hospital.

During my trip to Nicaragua, we had both clinic days and public health days. During our time at  the clinic we were able to help 637 people in three days, and then build concrete floors and proper latrine structures with running water for three different families. Being able to experience both the clinic setting and the public help aspect of the trip really helped me to understand some of the causes for the medical problems people are experiencing. Many people that we were helping were very susceptible to disease because of the conditions they were living in. We also provided some medical education experiences to people in hopes that they will be able to better prevent sickness in the community and take care of their health. Despite most of their living conditions, the people in the communities we were helping were so grateful that we were there and were some of the happiest people I have ever met.

Though the experiences on my two trips were very different, they both provided an amazing sense of fulfillment. Both trips put me outside my comfort zone, traveling to new places with people I was not familiar with, but it allowed me to meet amazing people and have experiences I never would have gotten otherwise. Helping people in need is one of the greatest feelings, and it is incredible to see how even the smallest things you do in other communities or your own are able to make a huge impact.   I still cannot believe how much my groups were able to accomplish on our trips, so thinking about how many people must be helped by St. Norbert students through the TRIPS Program every year is really incredible. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had through the TRIPS Program and I know it has allowed me to further explore the world around me in order to appreciate what I have, as well as inspire me to have a passion for serving others.”

Olivia with Goat

Summer Reflection- Blogger: Aly Tomey

Editor’s Note:  This summer we asked a few former TRIPS participants and leaders to reflect on their experiences with the TRIPS Program.  This post is the first in a series of reflections written by these individuals.  Thank you to Aly Tomey for spending some of your summer break reflecting on your experience.

Without further adieu, here’s Aly’s reflection about her January 2014 Homelessness and Poverty Trip to Washington, DC with the TRIPS Program. 

“During the last week of winter break this past school year, a group of twelve of my peers and I trekked to our nation’s capital – Washington D.C. I have always loved service trips, and knew D.C. would be terrific, despite the gloominess of winter. However after months of meetings with my fellow trip members, saying we were nervous would have been an understatement. 

When beginning any trip it is sometimes hard to recall the fundamental passion you have for the pursuit of justice and peace when traveling, changing environments, and sleeping on church pews tend to cloud your memory. Our first full day in Washington consisted of learning and relearning to maneuver the Metro (after walking 20 blocks to church), attending Sunday church at National Community Church (NCC), and later passing out brown bag lunches to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, living on the streets of downtown D.C. This day, in particular, stuck out to me, being a young lady who actually loves attending a Catholic mass on Sundays, wherein NCC was massively different than anything I was used to. However as it was a personal goal of mine to evangelize and love on everyone during the trip, I felt beautifully reminded that people across the globe all worship in different ways. It is our love and praise for Jesus Christ our Savior that can connect all Christians, but also bring about vital solidarity among the human family.

During our week in D.C. our group had the pleasure of sharing the city with 500,00 other Christians from throughout the country gathered for the 40th for Life, an advocacy walk calling for respect for all persons including the unborn, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This walk related directly to the Father McKenna Center where we were staying. The center was an old church that no longer had church services, now used as a homeless shelter for men, including the grace of having a meal, showers, and essential services to get men back on their feet. I was reminded that the dignity of each of the men we met and bonded with, was not any greater or any less than the unborn being marched for in the city. Safeguarding the dignity of all people is an essential, and serious need we must address in life as Christians, doing what Jesus has demanded of us.

Another large theme I learned from the week can be explained by the Catholic social teaching “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable”. This theme was illustrated in our day trips to Food & Friends, Capital Area Food Bank, Ebenezer’s Coffee House, the MLK Jr. Peace Walk, Catholic Charities USA, and Catholic University of America. Each location, although different in mission, was connected by their desire to serve others and bring about justice on a daily basis. The people who run non-profits, meal programs, and other similar organizations give selflessly of their time, the greatest gift among both the poor and the rich.

Because of this trip I learned a new urgency to radically living the Gospel, and made lifelong friends some of whom I now cannot picture college life without. With the burning passion still aglow in my heart a couple months later, I have the privilege of being a Trip Leader to my childhood hometown of Milwaukee in the spring of 2015. I hope that this trip can bring together a group of random classmates and fill the holes in their hearts that they did not even know existed.

Because of this trip I got more involved in SNC’s Cru. This has helped me experience unity among the Christian church and our primary responsibility to love one another. My service trip truly was the most impactful experience of my freshman year of college, and I cannot wait to see what else God has in store for this marvelous group.”Flight photo


A Fun-Filled Week at Saint Anthony’s!

Hello again one last time from the Urban Education: Milwaukee TRIP! Hannah K. and Emily here again to talk about the end of our week at Saint Anthony’s and our overall TRIPS experience!

Our Urban Education: Milwaukee TRIPS group!

Emily: On Thursday night Peter and I led the final reflection. We discussed the first initial thoughts we had walking into our classrooms, and how our ideas of our classrooms changed throughout the week. We talked about our highs and lows of the overall experience, and ended ended reflection with a chocolate surprise from Hannah S. and Allyson. (Peter especially liked his).

Peter loved his chocolate.
Peter loved his chocolate.

Hannah: For me, our last day at Saint Anthony’s was bittersweet. I had a wonderful time working with my first grade students and I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of this TRIPS experience. At the elementary school campuses it was “dress like your favorite book character day”, and the whole week’s theme was “Read Like a Rock Star!” So it was fun for those of us working with the younger grades to dress up during the week. Before starting the school day on Friday, our group also took a photo in front of the third through fifth grade building because we hadn’t done that earlier in the week. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me the day went by crazy fast and it was over before I knew it! We departed from Saint Anthony’s around 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, but only four of us made the ride back to SNC (Allyson, Hannah S., Rachel, and me), while everyone else got picked up in Milwaukee.

Aleena and I dressed up as "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" and "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" from Laura Numeroff's books.
Aleena and I dressed up as “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake” and “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” from Laura Numeroff’s books.

Here are some of our favorite TRIP memories from the week:

Emily: Last May I went on the Pilot TRIP to St. Anthony’s. On this trip I was fortunate enough to get to work with the same teacher. Both experiences were equally rewarding, and I did not want to leave. On Friday, my class took a field trip to the Milwaukee Art Museum. I was able to chaperone my own group of ten students. When we entered the room of religious artworks, one of my students saw a sculpture of Jesus and exclaimed, “That’s Jesus! I know Him!” Another memory I will not forget is coming back from the shower on Thursday to find 500 new photos on my phone taken by my fellow TRIPS participants.


Hannah: One of my favorite parts of the TRIP was getting to know my teacher and my students, and making over 12 different posters for my teacher to use throughout the rest of the year! Some of my TRIPS friends laughed at me for bringing a role of paper with me, but hey, I was prepared! My second memory happened on my last day, when one of my first grade boys asked me, “Ms. Hannah, truth or dare?” (I said truth.) “Is it true that you smile a lot?” This, of course, brought a smile to my face and made my last day wonderful.


Our TRIPS group is meeting one more time tonight for our final/after the TRIP reflection, we’re excited to meet again and catch up! (Even though it’s only been a few days.)

Hi from Emily and Matt.
Hi from Allyson and Rachel too.
Hi from Allyson and Rachel too.









Emily, Allyson, and Rachel
Emily, Allyson, and Rachel
Peter, Matt, and Alesia
Peter, Matt, and Alesia








Hannah K. and Emily :)


First Impressions

Hello! My name is Darin Rickert and I’m a senior at St. Norbert College.  I’m a biology major and a Spanish minor.  I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be a volunteer for SNC TRIPS.   Today (Monday) we just had our first day of service.  We started the day on site at a house at 8 a.m.  We were experiencing  some familiar weather to start of the day (cold).  Our job was to take dirt that was dropped off onto a pile in the driveway to the back of the yard.  It wasn’t the easiest of tasks, but our group displayed some great teamwork and chemistry to do the job efficiently.   As the day went on, we also had some warmer weather so that fueled our fire.  Our Habitat for Humanity supervisor, John, was a great guy and provided us with donuts, pizza and a helping hand.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the week!  It has been a great spring break so far!

A Bonded Journey

Hello there! My name is Jack Feuerstein, and I am a sophomore at St. Norbert College. I am majoring in  Music Education, with a focus and certifications in Choral, General, and Liturgical music. This is my second time serving with the TRIPS program, previously traveling with the Men’s Poverty Trip to serve in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in January of 2013. I was honored to be selected this year with the Affordable Housing Trip to Little Rock, Arkansas!

My fellow leaders Kelsie and Marcia, and fellow experienced member, Anna, have already posted about our pre-trip experiences as well as in depth about our first day traveling and then exploring around Little Rock! So my post will be about some of my favorite things about this trip thus far.

Once we all gathered our packed bags and possessions for the week, we loaded and settled into the vehicles. We all were tired and cold at 5:00am, but we were eager and excited to get traveling nonetheless. I am one of the drivers in our group for this trip, so I was very relieved and excited when I saw that our newer rental vehicles are a full size Chevy Suburban and a Toyota Mini-van, so our comfort and safety traveling this week is increased! On our successful 16 hour journey to Little Rock, I was able to sleep for at least 5 of the hours total and drove for about 6 hours total of the trip. When we weren’t fast asleep, the company I had in the vehicles was high spirited as we talked and listened to the CDs and radio together. I’m thankful we were able to laugh, sing, and have a good time, because it made the tiresome traveling fun and bearable even when I was driving at night in the rain, in construction, and in single-lane busy traffic… (sometimes all at once!) Traveling across the country was a true bonding experience for our group.

My other favorite part of the trip so far was being able to tour around learning about the historic highlights of Little Rock. Highlights for me were touring the city in a trolley, visiting the Old State House Museum, and Central High School. Experiencing Central High School in person was a powerful highlight for me, and I’m so thankful we were able to learn more and “re-live” such an important place in our Nation’s history. As a future teacher, it is an opportunity I will cherish and will always remember.

I feel so blessed to be a part of a trip that is amazing in so many ways; I could write forever. I am so eager to get to the work sites to be productive, sweat in the warm Arkansas weather, and make a difference in other people’s lives. Besides being blessed with the opportunity of being here, I’m so blessed to share it all with 11 wonderful group members that are truly making this so special for me. We all have bonded and increased our friendships immensely, and I cannot wait to see how this week will continue to bring us together even more while we work together for others!

A new day, a new adventure

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Background: Anna Spies is a Junior at St. Norbert College. She is studying Mathematics and Secondary Education, and this is her third trip with the TRIPS program at St. Norbert College. Her previous TRIPS experiences include Poverty and Homelessness in Chicago, Illinois and Disability Advocacy in Clinton, Iowa.

After 16 hours of travelling and a day of fellowship, exploration, and reflection, I come to you with one of the first blog posts of the Affordable Housing trip to Little Rock, Arkansas! We have had such a whirlwind of experiences, and we have only been in Little Rock for about 25 hours.

Our day of travel started out with an early morning, meeting at 5:00am to get packed up and head on the road. My personal road trip experience was almost entirely napping and driving (not at the same time, of course!), so I don’t have many fun stories about travelling itself. However, it was wonderful to see the land transition from piles of snow to fields of green as we made our way from Wisconsin to Arkansas. Our stop for dinner at a gas station in Missouri was adventurous, as we stopped at a gas station/Subway that lost water pressure. Otherwise, I caught up on a lot of sleep, and we arrived safely at Highland Valley United Methodist Church, where we will be staying this week.

Learning more about the Little Rock 9 and reflecting on our small group can make a difference.
Learning more about the Little Rock 9 and reflecting on our small group can make a difference.

Our first day started out with going to church. While some of us chose to go to a Catholic mass at a beautiful church in the area, most of us attended service at the church which is hosting us. We had some lovely conversations with members of the church who were excited to get to know us and support us in our service trip this week. One of the members, an older woman by the name of Betty, was particularly enthusiastic about extending hospitality towards our group. After some conversation, she asked us if we “liked trash.” Apparently, “trash” is a type of cereal treat that is common around here, so we look forward to getting treats from a very spritely Southern lady! Getting to talk to the people in Little Rock is one of the things that I am looking forward to this week, so it was great to have such a wonderful first experience with the members of our host church. After church, we spent our day exploring some of the sights of Little Rock, Arkansas. Our explorations included visiting Central High School, the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, a trolley ride through Little Rock and North Little Rock (which are two separate cities), and the Old State House Museum.

One of the highlights of our exploration was visiting Central High School; the site of the first integrated high school in the United States, famously known for a group of students nicknamed the Little Rock Nine. The visitor center had an incredible display of history and information on the integration of public high schools, as well as some information about the Civil Rights Movement, farm workers in California, women’s rights, and other social equality movements in the United States. As a student who is planning to go into education, it was an amazing opportunity to be able to visit Central High School and learn more about the struggles in providing equal, nondiscriminatory education opportunities for all students.

Tonight, I helped to lead a reflection in order to transition from tourists to volunteers. I really enjoyed having our first day to relax and explore the city, as well as resting up in order to prepare for our first day of service. We have had some great bonding experiences, sharing adventures as a group and getting to know everyone. I think that this day was perfect for us to get to know each other, because the better we know each other, the easier it will be for us to serve together. I cannot wait to get started, and I hope you look forward to hearing the stories from the members of my group!