Thursday, March 28, 2024

Every March, thousands of Hawkeyes take flight. Some students use the time to recharge and visit families, while many trek to sunny beaches or snow powdered mountains. Others simply opt for a ‘staycation’ in Iowa City. But for a smaller group, spring break marks the culmination of an intensive, multi-week leadership course.  

Instead of enjoying a well-deserved week of sleeping late or sunbathing, students enrolled in the Hawkeye Service Break (HSB) class volunteer in communities around the country. This year, groups of students embarked on service projects in Denver, Colorado; Jackson, Mississippi; Nashville, Tennessee; St. Louis, Missouri; and Washington D.C. Since 2017, these groups have worked to address issues of basic needs, food insecurity, houselessness, environmental sustainability, and human rights.

Stephen Ogunnubi, a graduate Intern for HSB, is impressed by the number of students who choose to participate. “Service comes with a lot of sacrifice, and it takes a willing and committed mind to stick through an immersive class and trip experience at the expense of some other fun [spring break] activities.”

“Students are looking to make a difference, learn more about sustainable social change, grow as leaders, serve in the community, travel to new locations, connect with like-minded peers, and much more,” says Ian Van Anden, Associate Director of Leadership and Engagement.

Van Anden believes this variety of motivations strengthens the HSB program. “[This wide range of factors] is part of the energy and success of the program.”

HSB students return to Iowa City with a unique leadership development experience, and an appreciation for how skills, abilities, and interests cultivated in the classroom can be put to work to improve communities.  

Ogunnubi emphasizes the perspective that participants gain from this transformative experience. “Students gain a deeper understanding of themselves by engaging with diverse communities and people who are different from them.”

The program has garnered lots of attention, eliciting requests from across the country for HSB to conduct service projects in various communities. To Ogunnubi, this is no surprise. “Community partners appraise our students for their diligence, commitment, and selflessness in service. We have contributed materially and financially to the course of social justice and food insecurity.”

But this spirit of service persists beyond a single week in March. The experience leaves many participants with a newfound passion for community service. Students who start the class as strangers cultivate long-lasting connections with each other and community partners. Hawkeye Service Breaks have also made lasting impacts in the communities they’ve served.

Ogunnubi spent his first HSB Trip in Jackson, Mississippi, and was impressed by the extent of the group’s accomplishments. “The HSB gave many students (including international students) an opportunity to learn more about the United States and see how structural problems impact the broader aspects of society and how interwoven many social problems are.”  

Hawkeye Service Breaks are dependent on the generosity of a variety of sponsors, including:

Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence (CIAE), College of Education Teacher Leader Center, Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, Food Pantry at Iowa, Nonprofit Leadership & Philanthropy Certificate, Dance Marathon, Fraternity & Sorority Life, Tippie College of Business, UI Center for Advancement, University of Iowa Student Government, and Women in Science & Engineering.

To donate to the program, give to the University of Iowa Center for Advancement’s Vice President for Student Life Directed Gift Fund and include gift instructions that direct the funds to Hawkeye Service Breaks.