Make The Connection

April 26, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan students work with the South Carolina State Park Service to improve pathways in Table Rock State Park during their Spring Break Service Week. (Photos courtesy of Christopher Mickens)

Serving in Community

Ohio Wesleyan Spring Break Team Works to Center Black Students While Aiding Others

Faith Deschamps '24

Name: Faith Deschamps '24
Hometown: East Orange, New Jersey
High school: East Orange STEM Academy
Majors: Black World Studies and Women's and Gender Studies
Minors: Religion and Sociology and Anthropology

Marquel Henry '24

Name: Marquel Henry '24
Hometown: Dayton, Ohio
High School: Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School
Majors: Business Management and Black World Studies

Dillon Shelton '24

Name: Dillon Shelton '24
Hometown: Solon, Ohio
High School: Solon High School
Major: Health and Human Kinetics

OWU Connection Experience: Participating in a Spring Break Service Week trip to South Carolina, "Service and Nature: Urban and Elsewhere," and serving as the team's co-leaders

"We did not have a team name," Deschamps says, "but I'd like to think of our team name as the Best SBSW Team Ever!"

Along with Deschamps, Henry, and Shelton, other South Carolina team members were Kaylen Brandt of Chicago, Illinois; Justice Clark of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Zachary Donley of Galloway, Ohio; Marquis Henry of Dayton, Ohio; Tymir Hill of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Mila Noel of Delray Beach, Florida; and Alhaji Sidibe of Canal Winchester, Ohio.

The team's faculty-staff advisers were Christopher Mickens, assistant director of the Department of Public Safety, and Adrian Moran '23, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.

Mickens says of the group, "They not only addressed community health but also centered Black students in a space where their sense of belonging is often overlooked."

What We Did

Deschamps: "For the 2024 Spring Break Service Week, our team traveled to Pickens County, South Carolina, to do service work on a mountain trail. Then we volunteered at an urban garden in Greenville, South Carolina, later in the week."

Henry: "Working on the trails consisted of breaking down boulders and making steps, creating and widening a trail, and clearing things out the way making it safer for everyone."

Shelton: "In Pickens, we stayed at Gaines Lodge and went to Table Rock State Park, where we specifically did work on the Pinnacle Mountain Trail. (Then we went to) Greenville to do farm work for Mill Village and True Freedom farms."

I chose to be a part of this team because it means a lot to me to analyze and strengthen my relationship and connection to nature alongside other Black and minoritized individuals.

Faith Deschamps '24

Why This Experience

Deschamps: "I chose to be a part of this team because it means a lot to me to analyze and strengthen my relationship and connection to nature alongside other Black and minoritized individuals. It felt cathartic to engage in both volunteer/service work and be able to engage in a level of introspection and spiritual healing throughout the week."

Henry: "What spoke to me about this experience was that it was centered around Black men being in nature."

Shelton: "This experience was huge for me because I never had a long experience in nature besides a few hikes here and there, but I never fully emerged and lived it while also doing service. … What spoke to me was the value of being able to grow your own food because you can always sell that produce or more importantly use it for immediate food for your family or barter with another seller to gain other products."

Favorite Moments

Deschamps: "My favorite moment throughout the experience was when we went stargazing at the highest point and border between North and South Carolina. Growing up, I always wanted to become an astronomer, and although I have yet to achieve that, stargazing in that location, surrounded by these folks who felt like family, was a very healing inner-child happy moment for me."

Henry: "My favorite moment was the first hike we did on Sunday and also visiting True Freedom Farm, where we got to learn, hangout, and enjoy some cold water."

Shelton: "Being able to break apart and move big rocks with my friends. Laughter happened and new skills were learned while it also felt good to serve."

Lessons Learned

Deschamps: "I learned the importance of embracing differences and being able to communicate effectively so that we could curate a holistic environment to encourage self-fulfillment and growth for everyone involved."

Henry: "The team and I learned the importance of being outside in nature and also different farming/gardening concepts and techniques. We also learned more about each other."

Shelton: "That community is everything, meaning working together gets things done faster, in nature, the kitchen, store, or wherever else it may be. It's OK to ask for help from another one because there were many tasks that couldn't be completed by one person so a lot of selflessness was needed. Cooperation is definitely the biggest takeaway, when working in teams, everyone has to be on the same page in order to get things done and to have satisfaction of everyone on the team."

Why Ohio Wesleyan

Deschamps: "I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan because of its promise to ensure affordability for its students."

Henry: "I chose Ohio Wesleyan because of sports but after being here for four years, I really have enjoyed the community and the small class sizes."

Shelton: "I decided I wanted to play football at the next level while being close to home. I knew class sizes wouldn't be too big, which allows me to have a closer relationship to my professors, which helps tremendously. Lastly, it gives me a chance to be a big fish in a small pond by having so many opportunities to rise and not just be another number."

Plans After Graduation

Deschamps: "After graduating, I will be participating in a Travel-Learning Course to Istanbul, Turkey. After that, I will go back home to East Orange, New Jersey, for the summer. And after that, I will be moving to Columbus to start a new chapter of my life as a Black Studies Ph.D. student at The Ohio State University."

Henry: "I am still figuring out plans for after graduation, but I hope to be doing something where I can use both of my majors and make a change serving whatever community I am in."

Shelton: "Take a gap year and work, then apply to PT (physical therapist) school or go straight into a nursing program."