Bethany College Students Spend Spring Break in Area Volunteer Service, International Travel
BETHANY, W.Va. — While some members of the Bethany community used the recent break in classes to participate in the College’s inaugural Alternative Spring Break, completing volunteer work at 16 area organizations, others engaged in international politics and exploration at a variety of overseas destinations. The activities were all part of the College’s ongoing initiatives to serve the local region and beyond — and to provide greater depth to classroom learning through real-world experiences.
Alternative Spring Break
Seven students participated in Bethany’s first-ever Alternative Spring Break and logged more than 350 volunteer hours with the following groups: American Red Cross, Bethany Park, Bethany Memorial Church, Boys and Girls Club, Brooke County Animal Shelter, Brooke County Library, Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling, Brooke Hills Park, Community Action Southwest, MaryAnn Manor, YMCA, Faith In Action, Wyngate Senior Living Center, Samaritan House, Greater Wheeling Coalition for the Homelessness, and Child’s Place CASA.
Students gathered each evening to reflect on the day’s events and discuss their observations. Senior Cynthia Richardson noted the tremendous need she saw evidenced in the area and the large number of non-profits working to address those needs. “This has been one of my best experiences at Bethany College during my four years here,” she stated.
Alternative Spring Break is sponsored by the Student Activities Council (SAC) and led by freshman Alex Henry, SAC Traditions and Community Chair, and Director of Student Activities Heather Mullendore with the help of Enrollment Counselor Justin Miller.
The Galapagos Islands
Five students — led by Professor of Biology John T. Burns and accompanied by Professor of Fine Arts Kenn Morgan — visited the Galapagos Islands on an eight-day boat cruise just two days after airline access to the destination was canceled for a day by tsunami warnings. Arriving on March 14, the group heard of extensive damage to a new hotel from the tsunami, but otherwise saw little damage.
“We felt fortunate to undertake our long-planned trip, despite the earthquake and other major disasters in Japan directly across the Pacific,” said Burns, advisor for the Tri-Beta Biological Honorary Society that planned the trip.
Burns noted that Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835 and made observations of the geology and wildlife that contributed to his later formulation of the theory of natural selection. Partially retracing Darwin’s route, the Bethany College group observed first-hand the odd mix of plants and animals that have colonized the islands after being carried there by rafts of vegetation from rivers 600 miles to the east in South America, in the clay on the feet of migrating birds, or by oceanic currents. Large iguanas that forage in the sea for algae, penguins, flamingos, frigate birds and sea lions are just a few of the spectacular inhabitants of the Galapagos.
The ship Golondrina served as home for the group during the voyage through the archipeligo. Most days included hiking over volcanic rocks to sea bird nesting sites and sea lion colonies as well as swimming and snorkeling in the unspoiled marine waters, inhabited by many species of colorful fish, sea lions, and occasional sharks and stingrays. Species endemic to the Galapagos, such as the marine and land iguanas; blue footed, red-footed and masked boobies; and Darwin’s finches were of special interest to participants.
The once-in-a-lifetime trip was made possible through a variety of sources, including fundraisers, gifts from businesses and individuals, student deposits, Student Government Association funding, and a NASA Faculty Research Enhancement Award to Burns to study the chronobiological adaptations of Galapagos species to temporal niches.
Burns stated, “As amazing as our trip was, equally striking is the number of generous people on and off campus who have encouraged and supported in some fashion or this unique trip for Bethany College students.”
Morgan is developing an art show inspired by the journey. The show will include photography, video, paintings, drawings and memorabilia installations created by the students and both professors. It will be displayed in Bethany's Renner Art Gallery next fall and will be open to the public.
Professor of Political Science Clint Maffett led the College’s International Relations and Black Alliance Clubs on a trip through London to The Gambia, marking the International Relation’s Club’s ninth visit there.
The Gambia, a country in West Africa, is part of the “Smiling Coast,” a name given because of the kindness and hospitality for which the people there are known.
Students toured a variety of historical sites, museums and family compounds, as well as nature reserves that included Kiang State Park, Abuku Nature Reserve and a monkey reserve. As part of a visit to the Banjul Market, they negotiated with sellers for local arts and crafts. Students also distributed money, shoes and school supplies to Gambian students in need.
In addition, participants took part in meetings with human rights and environmental organizations, government officials, The Gambia College, students and school administrators and American Embassy personnel.
A number of Bethany alums living in the region visited with the group. Malleh Sallah, a 1991 graduate of Bethany, serves as Deputy Director of the Electoral Commission. He briefed students on the upcoming elections that he is supervising.
Maffett presented students information on the work being done by his NGO, The Gambian Conservancy, and plans for an internship program that will allow students from various academic disciplines to complete a professional internship in The Gambia.
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Director of International Studies Marc Sable traveled to Cairo, Egypt, to see how the country has changed in the wake of the January 25 Revolution and to make contacts for future projects. Sable noted that he found a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere — with easy entry in the airport, few soldiers in the streets, and a noticeable decline from his previous visits in the number of interior ministry police.
Sable met with the chair of the Political Science Department at the American University in Cairo, attended a forum at which representatives of new political parties spoke (including the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood), and met with other prominent academics and former officials, including Dr. Abou Zeid Rageh, prominent architect and urban planning expert, and Dr. Aly Hamed Elghatit, prominent international law attorney and professor of law — as well as father of current Bethany student Nanice Elghatit.
Sable reports that he also visited Tahrir Square to watch demonstrations about the proposed constitutional amendments, interviewed an activist and protest participant, and spoke with community members on March 19, when Egyptians participated in their historic first free and fair elections — a referendum on the proposed constitutional amendments.
Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.