By Collin Atwood
The mission at Springfield College – which is represented by a maroon upside down triangle – is valued in a number of the campus organizations. The Alternative Break Club, Best Buddies and Habitat for Humanity are just a few of the many clubs that take the College’s values into action by serving others.
The YMCA Club is an organization on campus that helps the surrounding community. This year alone, the club made appreciation bags for the workers at the Forest Park Zoo, hosted a meeting to explore gender identity and expression and collaborated with other groups on campus to host a Treat Fest for kids in the surrounding area.
Although the school year ends on May 10, the mission for the YMCA Club continues. This summer, members of the organization will be helping others outside of the Springfield community. From May 22-29, seven students will join the YMCA Alumni National Service Project in Dupree, S.D.
The goal during that time is to partner with the Sioux YMCA and build a tiny home for local members of the community.
“I’ve always been passionate about serving in different communities,” graduate student Kyla Boyns said.
Before Boyns graduated with her bachelor’s degree in sociology, she served as the Co-President of the YMCA Club with senior Allie Pisano-Stratton. Boyns is now working on her masters degree at Springfield in industrial organizational psychology.
During Boyns’ time in high school, she volunteered with Habitat for Humanity on day builds, therefore bringing a little bit of home building experience with her. But, this is her first time going on a week-long trip where the main focus is to build a house everyday.
“I’ve never been on one of these trips before, so I’m super excited,” Boyns said.
The YMCA Club’s partnership with the YMCA Alumni at the end of the school year is a common one. Their typical location is usually in the Dominican Republic, where they build multiple houses in a week’s time for a small village in Don Gregorio.
In fact, Boyns planned to go on that trip in 2020, but COVID-19 canceled the trip. International travel with the College has been limited since. The last time the YMCA Club on campus took a group of students out of the country was in 2019.
A huge advantage of going to the Dominican Republic was learning about a different culture. Thankfully, that aspect will not be ignored when the group travels to South Dakota.
The trip will allow these students to immerse themselves in the customs of the Lakota Tribe, a group of Native Americans who currently live in North and South Dakota.
“We have a whole cultural aspect of it, which I think is incredibly important whenever you go serve anywhere,” Boyns said. “Making sure you pair service with that cultural aspect is what I’m most looking forward to.”
This trip is a week long, but the YMCA Alumni will be continuing the work even when the student-volunteers return home. This tiny home project in Dupree will take years to complete and the College’s partnership with the Sioux YMCA is one that will hopefully last for the foreseeable future.
“The point of service isn’t just to go in and say, ‘we’re helping you for a week and we’re leaving, bye,’ it’s also learning about the people that you’re going to serve, learning how you can help the people and then continuing that on after you come back,” Boyns said.
While most of the trip is focused on building the Tiny Homes, the students will get a day to explore the area. They will get the chance to hike at Badlands National Park, explore the Needles Highway at Custer State Park and get up close to the faces at the Mt. Rushmore National Monument.
“It’s pretty much just going to be a tour of the area which I’m also really looking forward to,” Boyns said.
The students will be joined by Springfield College President Mary-Beth Cooper, Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement, Calvin Hill and Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and YMCA Relations, Ben Morales.
The 10 members of the Springfield College community heading toward South Dakota this May are going to have the experience of a lifetime.