Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reflections from the Elks Scholar Spring Service Trip

by Savannah Skaggs
Most Valuable Student Scholar

My name is Savannah and I’m from Arkansas! I was honored to receive a Most Valuable Student Scholarship in 2011. I studied Spanish, medicine, and public health during my undergraduate years. I am currently completing a Master’s degree in health policy, and I will be starting medical school this fall.

When I reflect upon the Elks Scholar Service Trip to New Orleans, I am reminded of many vibrant colors and the grand memories associated with them. Green popped up throughout the week as our group helped pull weeds, replant vegetables, and build flower beds in a community garden. We sampled a variety of fresh greens and I’ve never seen so many people excitedly eat kale before! As we walked around the city, pinks and yellows made old shotgun houses shine. It was inspiring to hear about growth and restoration in a city so devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The cheery colors reflected the positive hopes the citizens had for the future of their city. When we served at a Mardi Gras bead recycling center, we were surrounded by every color one could imagine. We decorated ourselves with the beads as we sorted, taught each other dance moves, and shared stories about our lives. We enjoyed several king cakes throughout the week and each glittered of purple, yellow and green. Learning about such a rich and exciting culture never tasted so sweet!

I think color stood out to me so much on this trip because serving others brings so much color into my life. As a student, life can easily become hectic. It can be difficult to find time between studying for exams and engaging in extracurricular activities to volunteer and serve. This Elks Scholar Service Trip was the perfect opportunity to add some much-needed pops of color into my semester. It was refreshing to serve and give back to a deserving community, but it meant even more to be volunteering with my ever-expanding Elks family. While serving those in New Orleans, it was interesting to discover ways in which we were serving each other as well. Sharing stories about fun topics such as food, childhood memories and pets led to several laughs, but we also shared our perspectives about bigger issues, such as poverty, disasters, and community.

Upon reflection, I think learning to serve each other is what an Elks Scholar Service Trip is all about. All of us scholars have a heart for service, and we all enjoy giving back. While our service work was incredibly meaningful, learning about the lives, joys, and perspectives of other Elks scholars had the greatest impact on me. We all come from different backgrounds, but throughout the week we were able to discover things we had in common. Whether it was bonding over fluffy golden beignets or challenging each other to eat spicy hot sauce, we found our similarities. Amidst the bright colors of Mardi Gras floats and impressive decorations, we found friendship. Surrounded by the multi-colored borders of a community garden, we found what it means to be #ElksFamily.

I would encourage all Elks scholars to take advantage of future Elks Scholar Service Trips. I have been fortunate enough to attend these trips in both Washington, D.C. and New Orleans, and my expectations for these trips have always been exceeded. The experiences I’ve had on Elks Scholar Service Trips have added so much joyous color to my life! Developing new friendships, making memories that still make me laugh, giving back to others, and gaining new perspectives on the world all brightened up my spring break. Adding fun, service, and meaningful color to life is never a bad thing and I’m grateful that Elks Scholar Service Trips have given me the opportunity to do so!
Want to learn more about Savannah’s time in New Orleans? Check out this recap video, Common Thread: The 2017 Spring Service Trip.

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