Sophomore spends spring break assisting a small community

Accorsi said the opportunity allowed for her to ‘step outside her comfort zone’

By KRYSTAL NURSE

The Sun

For some college students, spring break is a time to visit a warm state or country to briefly get away from the stress of college. For others, they use it for philanthropic efforts.

Mullica Hill resident Rachel Accorsi, a sophomore at James Madison University, took the opportunity to visit the Dismas House of Indiana in South Bend from March 4 to 11. There, she said she learned, firsthand, about the transitional services offered to people who have been released from incarceration.

“Dismas House provides housing, meals, case management, tutoring, employment services, life skills workshops, counseling, mentoring and programs to help former offenders make a successful transition back into the community,” she said.

Her group interacted with nine residents at the house through basement renovations. Accorsi added she and the group of people she traveled with cleaned out the house’s pantry room, built a storage room to hold tools, fixed an apartment space in the basement for a future resident and bonded with the residents through various games.

“The residents were extremely welcoming of us, and we all created a very close bond with them,” she said. “We all worked during the day, and then during game time we were able to get to know the residents on a deeper level, which was really cool.”

Accorsi said she learned about the alternative spring break program through a fellow Alpha Delta Pi sorority member last year when she was a freshman with a Nashville nonprofit. She added her experience in Nashville led her to join JMU’s nonprofit SafeRides, which offers “free, nonjudgmental rides home to the JMU community.”

“They too were organizing a sponsored alternative spring break trip, and I thought that this trip would introduce me to new people while allowing me to step out of my comfort zone,” she said. “So I applied and was chosen for the trip.”

Since the trip, Accorsi said volunteering in the house has been her favorite place because she felt the “residents gave as much to me as I was able to give to them.” She went on to add she was able to see the direct, personal impact of how much she has helped the recipients of her efforts.

With her major in international affairs, Accorsi said she is looking into volunteering more with organizations like the Peace Corps.

“I don’t know if I would go back to Dismas House only because I loved the people and the memories I have made this past break,” said Accorsi when asked if she’d participate in another alternative spring break. “I don’t know if I would enjoy going back to the house knowing that all of the people I am now close with won’t be there.”

She added students should seek out opportunities at their colleges to see if they can participate in a similar spring break program to help open up career prospects and develop them more as a person.

“This program has helped me grow to become more adventurous and confident to step out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I encourage anyone who considers participating in an ASB to apply because you will make memories that will last a lifetime.”