Students from several Iowa colleges will spend their Spring Break next month riding across the nation on a bus, doing community service projects in different cities every day. It’s an effort by the group "Students Today, Leaders Forever." Liz Dilling, a junior at the University of Iowa, says she’ll be leaving Iowa City on March 13th, headed for stops in Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
Dilling, who’s from Des Moines, says the final destination is Washington D.C. where they’ll meet up with students on nine other buses to do a large service project, cleaning up "one of the dirtiest rivers in the nation," not far from the U.S. Capitol building. Along the way, Dilling says the college students will be tackling a host of other odd jobs in cities where they’ll be staying overnight — jobs ranging from picking up trash to cleaning the windows in historic buildings.
She says each morning they’ll do service projects from around 8 AM until noon, then, they’ll hop on the bus and drive to the next town where they’ll spend the night in a community center, church or school gym. While some Iowa college students dream of using their vacation days to soak up the sun on a sandy beach, this is the second year Dilling has gone on this sort of Spring Break trip. She says she enjoys doing community service and seeing the country, especially amidst a busload of other like-minded college students from across Iowa.
Dilling says you don’t get a lot of sleep but you have a lot of fun and meet people that will become your really good friends for the rest of your life. Dilling says this is known as the Pay it Forward Tour, named for a movie that came out in 2000. She says they try to touch as many communities as possible on the trip.
"Like in the movie, the little boy started the program where he tries to help one person who can hopefully help another three people along the way," Dilling says. "That’s kind of what we want to do, to go and help one community and hopefully they can help other people around them." During this year’s Spring Break weeks, more than 700 students will be visiting 77 cities on 21 buses, heading for four destination cities — all with the single mission. To learn more, visit the Students Today, Leaders Forever website.