Sand. Surf. Sun. Drinks.
Those words can describe many students’ college spring break. Others may just say, “my parents’ couch.”
One senior at NDSU, however, tried something different this year. She hopped on a bus with 41 other students to embark on her first Pay It Forward tour, knowing little about what was yet to come. All Emily Driessen knew about the upcoming nine days was to bring jeans and a pair of shoes she didn’t care about.
The tour stopped along five different cities to reach its final destination of Houston, Texas. Students did volunteer work along the way.
“The mission is to help out people over your spring break with your free time and improve the community as well,” Driessen said.
Driessen and other volunteers did a variety projects in each city. In Center Point, Iowa, the team cleaned parks and washed the walls of the local high school, which was littered with children’s dirty handprints.
The team helped plant flowers in Tennessee and also stopped at an animal shelter, which was a difficult experience for an owner of two dogs herself.
The shelter could not afford to keep all the strays that were found, so the ones that were kept in the shelter were on death row.
“They’re so happy and healthy now…but they’re a minute from dying and that’s the only reason they’re there,” she said.
Driessen said the volunteers got a wave of thank yous each time they lent a hand.
“It was cool to see how our manpower could do something beneficial as opposed to getting wasted or tanning.”
Driessen’s spring break trip wasn’t the first time she has paid it forward, however. She began volunteering at 10 years old when her parents brought her to a food shelter to serve to the homeless, which was organized by her church at the time.
“I had no idea that people didn’t eat,” she said. “They didn’t have regular meals.”
Most of her other volunteer involvement has been a bit more indirect, such as raising money for hurricane efforts or even helping people that are already well-off. She said that only taking a few hours of one’s time can get tasks done that would take others a lot longer to do on their own, and people appreciate the volunteers’ time.
Driessen is also a member of the NDSU Lions Club in the “tail twister” position, which requires her to make games to entertain people. She also serves as the Lacrosse Club’s president, which she also views as a volunteer opportunity. During her freshman year at NDSU, Driessen was also in the Freshman Leadership Organization.
As a senior, the Pay it Forward tour will be her first and last. Driessen plans to continue her service efforts and has applied to be a camp counselor for middle school “STLFers (Students Today Leaders Forever).”
“If I can make a positive impact on them to keep them in the program, then that’d be great,” she said. “Then they can have what I didn’t.”
Driessen said that although it is difficult to get wrapped up in your own everyday life, helping others gives people a way to forget about their own problems.
“It’s so comforting to see that if I help other people, then if I need help, hopefully someone else would be there for me,” she said.