Two teams of Ohio Wesleyan students spent their spring break completing service projects. One team traveled to Texas to help rebuild hurricane-damaged homes, while the other visited South Dakota to explore Lakota-Anglo relationships on the Rosebud Reservation. (Photo by Brad Ward)

Spring Break Service

Ohio Wesleyan Students Work to Help, Understand Others During Weeklong Break

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, Ohio – Two teams of Ohio Wesleyan University students spent a week helping others as part of OWU’s annual Spring Break Service Week program.

Before the teams left, and again at a return celebration, they received blessings from University Chaplain Chad Johns, director of Spring Break Service Week. A 2002 Ohio Wesleyan graduate, Johns annually shares a traditional Franciscan blessing to guide the teams in their journeys:

“May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships … with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people and the earth … with tears to shed for those who suffer so you will reach out your hands to comfort them and change their pain into joy,” Johns said. “And may God bless you with the foolishness to think that you can make a difference in the world, so you will do the things which others say cannot be done.”

The teams traveled between March 11 and March 19, and gathered together March 29 to share images and insights from their experiences. The 2023 teams, including their destinations, missions, and members, were:

Lakota Nation, South Dakota – “Building and Rebuilding”

A team of Ohio Wesleyan students and advisors spent spring break on the Redbud Reservation in South Dakota working with Marla C. Bull Bear of Lakota Youth Development (seated) and others to explore Lakota-Anglo relations. (Photo courtesy of Newton Kimberly)

This group engaged “in the long-term mission to rebuild Lakota-Anglo relationships through respectful conversation, deep critical reflection, and dedicated service.” The nine-member team worked with Lakota Youth Development on the Rosebud Sioux Tribe Reservation in South Dakota. The nonprofit organization provides a site for cultural learning and growth, guidance for youth, and aid for Lakota people with physical impairments.

  • Payton Andisman of Akron, Ohio, student team leader
  • Nestor Cook of Sunbury, Ohio
  • Aaron Gonzales of Richfield, Ohio
  • Hazel Jolliff of Cardington, Ohio
  • Kahlil Mitchell-Smith of Salem, Massachusetts
  • Emmet Ritchie of Galena, Ohio
  • Celeste Swihart of Fredericktown, Ohio
  • Newton Kimberly, faculty-staff adviser
  • David Soliday, faculty-staff adviser

Houston, Texas – Disaster Recovery with SBP

A team of Ohio Wesleyan students and advisors spent spring break helping to renovate the hurricane-damaged home of a military veteran, Mr. Harris, (right) in Houston, Texas. (Photo courtesy of Kerri Robe)

This group worked with SBP, a nonprofit co-founded in New Orleans by 1995 OWU alumnus Zack Rosenburg, to assist with hurricane recovery efforts. The team spent the week helping to rebuild hurricane-damaged homes while exploring issues of community building and learning more about national and global responsibility for disaster restoration.

  • Deshawn Rode of Lewis Center, Ohio, student leader
  • Millie Rocco of Vancleave, Mississippi, student leader
  • Faith Deschamps of East Orange, New Jersey
  • Gabby Gonzales-Duarte of Venezuela
  • Jenni Le of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Emma Luft of Columbus, Ohio
  • Sai Suresh Kannan of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
  • Christopher Mickens, faculty-staff adviser
  • Kerri Robe, faculty-staff adviser

Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s annual Spring Break Service Week program at