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University Honors Student Committed to Helping Others Over Spring Break

The challenges of his UC academic program and co-op commitments leave little free time, but come spring break, when Ben Schutte can get away, he heads to the hills of Kentucky to help families in need.

Date: 3/15/2010
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: University Honors Program
Ben Schutte got hooked on a University of Cincinnati service learning experience when, as a sophomore, he traveled to Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains to complete a winter course with the University Honors Program. The course examined Appalachian culture and intercultural communication. The trip had such an impact on the Mason, Ohio, graphic design major that he traveled back to the region last year as younger brother Mark, now a second-year civil and environmental engineering major, took part in the University Honors Program service-learning experience.
Ben Schutte and Taylor Szatkowski
Ben Schutte and Taylor Szatkowski, a student at University of Chicago-Illinois

This spring, Mark takes off on a new service adventure with Serve Beyond Cincinnati, a UC student organization that strives to build an emerging, civic-minded generation by providing national and international service experiences for UC students. He and 11 other UC students will be building fuel-efficient stoves in homes in Chocco, Peru.

But Ben – a Moeller High School graduate and now a fifth-year senior coming off a winter co-op experience at Kraemer Design and Production – will travel back to Flatgap, Ky., with the University Honors Program, as part of an intercollegiate experience to build or rehabilitate homes for underserved residents. He says it has been an adventure that has allowed him to build connections not only with UC students in different majors, but also to build friendships with students from other universities.

The University Honors Program encompasses the top five percent of UC’s undergraduate students. University Honors focuses on unique and challenging academic and hands-on experiences that reflect community engagement, global study, leadership, research and the creative arts.

Service learning is defined by UC as “a reflective educational experience in which students earn academic credit by participating in meaningful service activities. Service-learning experiences are designed to foster deeper understanding of course content and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”

Ben Schutte

Reflecting on his own educational experience last spring break, Ben says the students participated in rehabilitating a home for a family with a special needs child, including making the family bathroom wheelchair accessible for the son, who was 12 years old. “Over the next five days (of spring break), I tried to spend a little time with each of them every day,” Ben says.

He adds that some moments of the trip turned from suspenseful to comical. “The father and I spent a day on the roof repairing rotting ceiling boards and came across a nest full of angry hornets attached to one of the pieces. This resulted in a frantic moment of ‘Hot Potato’ that is only seen in cartoons and Three Stooges movies,” he says.

“Needless to say, it was an unusual bonding moment for the two of us, and on the day we left, the father presented me with an empty hornets’ nest that had been hanging in the shed, to commemorate that moment together. It was a tearful goodbye for all of us, as we had grown attached to the family.”

Ben says that as a graphic designer, much of his time is spent on computer work, so some manual labor in the great outdoors is “the perfect spring break for me.

“I’ve never had a spring break at the beach. But for me, the time outdoors doing good work with good people is a great spring break,” he says. “Believe it or not, you don’t have to go to Florida to get some sun. The sun shines in Appalachia, too.”

UC Honors students

The Schutte brothers follow a UC Bearcat family tradition. Oldest brother Kyle graduated from UC in 2008 with a degree in accounting and management. Their mother, Kathryn, earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and their father, Lawrence, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Both Ben and Mark are in the UC Cincinnatus Scholarship program – Mark earned a full four-year scholarship to pay for tuition, books, room and board and fees.

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