Thursday, February 11, 2016

The 5 Stages of an Elks Scholar Service Trip

by Elizabeth Schaff
2012 Legacy Scholar


Elks scholars now have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. These trips will offer the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and the chance for Elks scholars and Elks to connect with their Elks Family across the country. To read more posts about the service trips, click here.

I recently returned from Oakland, California, where I had the opportunity to serve alongside 18 of my Elks scholar peers and two wonderful ENF staff members as we delved into the issues of hunger and homelessness plaguing the San Francisco Bay area. Throughout the trip I experienced a whirlwind of emotions, and I gained more from my experience than I ever dreamed possible. Although these are only a handful of the many feelings I had during my trip, any Elks scholar considering attending an Elks scholar service trip can count on experiencing the following:

Curiosity
As an Elks scholar, I had always been interested in serving my campus and community. However, my involvement with the Elks had been limited, since there is no active Lodge near my university. When I received the application for the service trip I was curious about the Elks as a whole, as well as what types of service we might be performing. This was my first time participating in a service trip, so I truly didn’t know what to expect. This trip gave me great insight into the activities and service of the Elks, as well as an entirely new view of the issues facing the San Francisco area.
 
Anticipation
When I received my acceptance letter for the trip, I could barely contain my excitement. I was thrilled to have this opportunity to learn more about the Elks and my fellow Elks scholars from across the nation. I was also excited to dive into the issues of hunger and homelessness and how they affect the areas we served. Having grown up and attended college in North Dakota, I was eager to experience a new part of the country while having a meaningful impact on the Oakland community.  

Serving
Service is the cornerstone of the Elks scholar trips­–as such, our team spent four full days volunteering with different organizations around the Oakland area. We learned so much every day, and we had the opportunity to serve a wide variety of causes. From sorting cans and serving lunch at a shelter, to sorting more than 16,000 pounds of fresh produce at a county food bank, to interacting with low-income elementary school students in an after school program, to planting more than 6,000 marsh plants in an effort to restore the wetlands around the San Francisco Bay, there was definitely something for every participant. Through our service we learned about the issues facing the San Francisco Bay area, as well as about each other and ourselves.

Exploration
Our service trip included both figurative and literal aspects of exploration. On our final day in the San Francisco area we were able to visit several of the popular Bay Area attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and AT&T Park. Perhaps even more meaningful, however, was the personal exploration that each participant experienced throughout the week. During our nightly reflections we were able to learn about the experiences and viewpoints of our fellow Elks scholars, and we formed meaningful and lasting bonds with one another. I experienced more personal growth through my participation in the service trip than I ever imagined possible.

Gratitude
As an ENF scholarship recipient, I already felt a strong sense of gratitude to the Elks for helping to make my education possible; however, through my participation in the service trip, I gained a deeper sense of gratitude for all that the Elks have done for me and do for their communities.  By seeing firsthand the devastating effects of hunger and homelessness, I also gained insight into my own privilege, and am very thankful for all of the opportunities and blessings I have been given.

The trip was a truly eye-opening experience, and I learned an incredible amount about the issues we served, my fellow Elks scholars, and especially about myself. I feel extremely blessed to be part of the Elks family, and I would definitely encourage any Elks scholar to consider participating in a future service trip!

Elizabeth Schaff
2012 Legacy Scholar

Elizabeth Schaff is a 2012 Legacy Scholar and a recent graduate from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND, where she earned a degree in biology with a minor in music. She currently lives in Saint Paul, MN, and plans to apply to medical school this summer.

We know Elks scholars are dedicated to service. Elks scholars now have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation will offer three Elks Scholar Service Trips for up to 20 Elks scholars each. They are scheduled for the summer, winter and spring in locations from coast to coast. These trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks Family from across the country. For more information about the trips, click here.

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