Skip to main content

The People Make It Special

by John Kavula
Elks Scholar Fellow

At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 12, I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. After a week of long days running around with kids at the Boys and Girls Club and serving in the Mississippi sun followed by little sleep, my first Elks Scholar Service Trip was over. While it certainly wasn’t easy, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I like to think I have one of the best jobs in the world—I get to travel around the country, learn about new communities through service and, best of all, meet amazing people while doing so. This year’s winter trip to Biloxi was no exception.

Returning to the Gulf Coast was a bit of a homecoming for me because I lived an hour away from Biloxi for about 10 years. Even though it was only for a week, it was great to see the scholars, many of whom had never been to Mississippi or even the Deep South before, get a taste of what the Gulf Coast has to offer. And I don’t just mean the food!

A highlight, or at least very memorable moment, for many was coming feet away from an alligator while kayaking through a bayou to pick up trash. While most of the scholars didn’t come on the trip expecting to see an alligator four feet away from them, it is certainly a story they will take home to their friends and family, which may not be believed!

As cliché as it may sound, southern hospitality is alive and well and we saw it everywhere. From the man at the car dealership who stayed open late to allow us to rent our van for the week, to the woman who took people to her office for a restroom break while we were working outside all day, to every Elk we met at the Lodges, each person I met during the week ended our conversation by saying, “If y’all need anything while you’re here, give me a call.” This not only made my life easier, but it made the scholars’ experience better. And they are the reason I love my job—without their desire to learn, unique stories and backgrounds, and dedication to service, there would be no service trips.
 
The trip to Biloxi was important to me not only because the Gulf Coast is special to me, but also because it was the first trip I led as the Elks Scholar Fellow. As with any trip of this kind, there were inevitably hiccups and challenges that forced me to call audibles. But each one was a learning experience, and I will use this trip and everything I learned to make sure the next five are even better.

Next, we’re on to Portland, Oregon, which could not be more different than Biloxi. It is a big city where I have only spent two days of my life. But I could not be more excited to see some familiar faces, meet a new group of awesome scholars, and learn about a new place as the Elks Scholar Service Trip program takes on the Pacific Northwest in March!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

For the Love of Nonprofits

by Nathan Kriha
Donor Services Coordinator
One of the most consistent passions in my life has been a love for nonprofits—especially ones that focus on education and the development of impoverished communities. This love can be traced all the way back to my high school days when my mother (quite forcibly) suggested I teach a kindergarten religious education course with her.
After my introductory class, I thought that this decision would easily be one of the biggest regrets of my life: The children would scream, cry, launch their crayons into space, tear up their books, and cry a little more. While I was initially stunned by this preliminary lesson, I witnessed my mother corral these angsty students and gradually create a heartwarming and quite soothing environment. At this moment I realized the true influence that a teacher can have on their students, and I became captivated with the study of successful teaching methods.
This interest persisted into my coursework at the University of Not…

Meaghan's First Month

by Meaghan Morris
Lodge Grants Program Coordinator

Hello! My name is Meaghan, and I am thrilled to be the new Programs Coordinator in the Community Investments Program office.
I graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2015. Since then, I’ve jetted around peripatetically, travelling to 46 states and 24 countries, and living in Western Massachusetts, Boston, and the mountains of rural Wyoming.  I moved to Chicago in 2016, and the Cubs won the World Series a little while later. I attribute my move as the main catalyst for the breaking of the Curse of the Billy Goat, so, you’re welcome for that, Cubs fans!
I joined the ENF during its busiest time of the year. I started working in the CIP office one day after grant applications opened for the new year, and our office was inundated with hundreds of grant applications in that first week alone. On top of the busyness in our office, Fundraising, Communications, Hoop Shoot and Scholarships were excitedly (yet gracefully!) preparin…

Living Out My Pacific Northwest Dreams through Service

by Melissa Hoffman
2017 Most Valuable Student Scholar
My name is Melissa Hoffmann. I’m a sophomore studying Environmental Studies at Vassar College in New York. I’m involved in climate justice and environmental activism work on campus and with the community. Traveling to Portland, Oregon, with the Elks marked my first time traveling alone, and it was to a place I’ve never been with people I’ve never met. My first Elks Scholar Service Trip ended up being the best spring break I’ve ever had.
One of the reasons I was interested in the trip to Portland, aside from wanting to connect with other Elks scholars and use my energy to make a difference in the world, was the location. As an environmentalist who fully embraces my love for a good soil composition and a low-carbon lifestyle, Portland has always interested me. It is known as one of the greenest, if not the greenest, city in the U.S. for its high-quality public transportation, walkability and bikeability, access to green spaces, and sust…