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Recipe for an Elks Scholar Service Trip

By 2015 Most Valuable Student Scholarship Recipient and Elks Scholar Advisory Board Member Jessica Carter

Jessica Carter, 2015 Most Valuable Student scholar and freshmen representative on the Elks Scholar Advisory Board, is giving us a glimpse into life as a college freshman. Join her each month as she blogs about her exciting new challenges and experiences at Northwestern University. 

Something new and exciting was just created exclusively for Elks scholars across America— Elks Scholar Service Trips! From August 9 through the 15 we tried making it for the first time and, surprisingly, got it just right. It’s only fair that I share the recipe with all of you in hopes that you’ll try it out for yourself one day.
Yield: 1 experience of a lifetime
Total Time: 6 days of service and adventure
Ingredients:
  • One eager group of Elks scholars and ENF staff
  • A theme song—“Everything is Awesome” was ours
  • One work site in a welcoming town—we used Manistique, Michigan
  • A dash of fun
  • A pinch of nightly reflections
  • And Maryann Slater (to hold everything together)
Side note: A common misconception is that a background in construction is needed—but I assure you the recipe works better without it.
Preparation: 1. Mix six Elks scholars and five ENF staff together (subject to variation)

This is what it should look
like when step one is complete.
a. We all came from different parts of the country—Maryland, Utah, Wisconsin, literally everywhere—so prior to Sunday, I didn’t know what to expect. Connections were made almost immediately and after the six-hour car ride up to Manistique, we were perfectly mixed and ready to start working.

2. Next, take this fantastic, new team, put them on the worksite, and let them rise to the occasion.
a. On the worksite, our main job was finishing the siding and insulation. It was amazing to see the difference that was made in just five short days. Piece by piece, we were leaving our mark both on the house and on the town.
b. We couldn’t have picked a better destination than Manistique—the outpouring of support was truly unparalleled. From the wonderful staff at Habitat for Humanity to the daily lunches prepared by the local Elks members, we felt so welcomed. It’s not every day that you get the chance to make a difference in such an amicable community.


3. Don’t forget to sprinkle in a few local attractions!

Pictured Rocks was picture perfect.
a. I went into the service trip thinking that it would be all work, all the time. I can’t stress enough that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, we were extremely diligent and productive on the worksite, but it was balanced out with so much fun and adventure that it really didn’t seem like we were on a service trip—more of an Elks Scholar Retreat, if you will.
b. The Pictured Rocks boat tour was arguably one of the best parts of the week. I probably used up half of the storage on my phone from taking so many pictures (the name is fitting for the place), but it was one of the several things about the trip that I won’t soon forget.
c. We also ventured to the Manistique Boardwalk, the Seul Choix Point Lighthouse, and Kitchitikipi—needless to say, there was no shortage of excitement.
4. Finally, at all costs, don’t forget to add in Nightly Reflections–the recipe won’t be the same without them.

The final product: Elks scholars who
built a strong house,
but even stronger connections.
a. Along the way someone said, “I thought the reflections were going to be us all sitting in a circle and sharing our feelings.” I promise that’s not what we did. It was so easy to get caught up in our daily tasks, especially on the worksite, that we almost forgot to think about what were doing and why were doing it. Reflection was a time to realize not only the change we were making in the community but the change the community was making in us.
There you have it! I’ve given you all of my secrets to the perfect service trip! Like most recipes, it’s going to be different every time you make it, but always just as sweet. Try it out for yourself, I promise you won't regret it.


Jessica Carter
Elks Scholar Advisory Board Freshman Representative
Northwestern University 

In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.16 million to fund the ENF scholarship program, which provides college scholarships, ensuring a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important parts of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and each other. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit www.elks.org/enf/scholars.

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