UC Student Spends His Breaks Making the World a Better Place
Micah Whitt is co-founder and president of the UC student service organization, Serve Beyond Cincinnati.
Date: 3/3/2008“I can’t have the expectation that I’m going to rebuild the world. I’m one person and I’m doing what I can do, and what I can do is recruit as many people as possible to do what I think is amazing.” – Micah Whitt, president of Serve Beyond Cincinnati
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Serve Beyond Cincinnati
After Micah Whitt of Bucyrus, Ohio, wrapped up finals last fall, he spent his winter break digging holes, mixing concrete and laying bricks as part of The Fuller Center for Housing drive to build a 100-home village in El Salvador. At the same time, fellow members of the UC student organization, Serve Beyond Cincinnati, were spending winter break building a church in Tampico, Mexico, and taking part in a drive to build 500 affordable homes for low-income families in Lanett, Ala.
Serve Beyond Cincinnati strives to build an emerging, civic-minded generation by providing national and international service experiences for UC students. Whitt, one of the co-founders of Serve Beyond Cincinnati, says the idea to create the organization evolved after students who had previously performed service out of town came home energized and eager to make plans for their next break from classes. “There are always more and more people who want to get involved,” says Whitt, a fourth-year civil and environmental engineering major.
The organization is planning four trips for alternative spring break from March 21-30. Whitt’s team will travel to Guatemala to work with the national organization, Mission Impact, to build a cistern and stove for a local school.
Whitt says he grew up in a service-minded family, and at an early age, he says he became aware of how important it was to serve others. “You can’t just sit around and do nothing. There’s so much need in the world and no matter where you are, there’s always someone who needs help.”
Whitt adds that it seems that every student who’s new to these trips comes home spreading their enthusiasm to classmates, friends and roommates. For instance, he says UC student Izzie Zahorian, the organization’s Webmaster, is “accomplishing every goal our organization has. She’s telling everyone about Serve Beyond Cincinnati. It’s an amazing transformation that happens in people’s lives.
“Our vice president, Stephanie Utrup, is a social work major, and she’s now interested in pursuing a career in international social work in El Salvador. There are stories like that all around, and as these students enter their careers, they’re realizing there’s more to life than just making money,” Whitt says.
However, student members do need to focus on raising money to fund their trips. Whitt says each student has a fundraising quota so that the organization can help offset the individual costs of the trips. He says private donations are a huge part of a successful trip. Students raise money through letter-writing campaigns, phone solicitations and other fundraisers, such as the men of Beta Theta Pi’s March 2 Beta Ball – a dodge-ball tournament fundraiser that was held in the Campus Recreation Center. Proceeds from that tournament benefited Serve Beyond Cincinnati, Literacy Center West and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA).
Money, planning and organizing are among the key challenges that Serve Beyond Cincinnati encounters, Whitt says, but he adds the work brings back double the personal rewards in making a difference in the lives of others. “It can be completely overwhelming. But if I can make an impact on one person’s life, it will enable them to make a difference in someone else’s life, and that’s going to spread exponentially, uncontrollably,” he says. “The more our students are prepared to make a difference, the more this will continue to have an impact. We’re working to recruit as many students as possible, at this peak time in their lives, to consider the impact they can have when they go out and serve the world.”
Trips in the Planning by Serve Beyond Cincinnati
Saltillo, Mexico – Fifteen student representatives of Serve Beyond Cincinnati will spend a week working in some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Mexico, approximately four hours southwest of McAllen, Texas. The students will be building bathroom facilities for homes built two years ago by Serve Beyond Cincinnati. Volunteers will be working alongside homeowners and local workers. Students will depart Cincinnati on March 21 and return on March 30. The cost of the trip runs around $1000 per student. Each student must pay $500 in deposits and meet a $250 fundraising quota. SBC supplements the cost of the trip through group fundraising and private donations.
Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala – Serve Beyond Cincinnati will be sending 15 students to Guatemala during Spring Break. The team will join a UC alum in working to increase the quality of life for local residents. Projects include building efficient, safe stoves as well as water filtration, management, and storage. Students will depart Cincinnati on March 21 and return on March 30. The cost of the trip is more than $1,200 per student. Each student must pay $500 in deposits and meet a $500 fundraising quota through a personal fundraising campaign. SBC supplements the cost of the trip through group fundraising and private donations.
Lanett, Ala. – For the second year, 11 members of Serve Beyond Cincinnati will travel to the south in an effort to completely eliminate poverty housing in the Chattahoochee Valley region. Working with the Fuller Center for Housing, Habitat for Humanity and volunteers from around the country, the team will work on several single-family Habitat homes doing roofing, insulation, painting, flooring, and much more. Students will depart Cincinnati on March 23 and return by March 29. The total cost of the trip to each participants is $250.
Shreveport, La. – Ten UC students will represent the Center for Community Engagement and Serve Beyond Cincinnati while building “on higher ground.” The team will participate in the construction of several homes to be built for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina by working on all aspects of the construction of the homes. Students will depart Cincinnati on March 23 and return by March 29. The total cost to each participant of this trip is $200. Some costs of the trip are supplemented by the UC Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and the team is also fundraising to contribute to the project.