The program was officially started in 2006 by Alicia Ridley and Stephen Kubasek, but the idea had already been around for many years. The SERVE Program grew out of an alternative Spring Break Trip that Father Michael Cooper started in the early 2000s. Father Michael was the Assistant to the President for University Ministry at the time. He began organizing a single trip to the Dominican Republic with a small group of students.
“In 2005 when I was a freshman, I went on the Dominican Republic trip. It was a life changing experience for me. The community aspect of the trip was my favorite part of it,” said Kubasek.
After Stephen’s trip to the Dominican Republic, he felt inspired to continue going on trips each year and having new experiences of community building. In the Fall of 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the area surrounding New Orleans. He remembers watching the news reports and talking with friends about what happened in New Orleans. Stephen and others decided to try to put together a trip and do what we could to help the people of New Orleans. Stephen had some contacts in the New Orleans area that were able to host the group. They collaborated with Catholic charities in the area and were given a long list of projects. Eighteen students and faculty members participated on that trip. Dr. Chris Miller was the main faculty advisor.
After they came back from that trip, Dr. Arthur Kirk Jr. saw the value of having students-lead trips and said that was the direction that he wanted the alternative spring break program to go in. Kirk appointed Stephen Kubasek and Sam Cibrone, the women’s volleyball coach, as the co-chairs of the new committee. Kubasek came up with the name SERVE, and they started meeting and developing plans to organize more student organized trips. In 2007, there were five student-led trips. They decided that trips should always contain a spiritual component, but that the emphasis should be on service. This opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for trips, including environmental service trips to the Florida Keys. In 2008, Stephen assisted with mentoring other students who led trips to New Orleans, Atlanta, New Jersey, Honduras, Dominican Republic and the Florida Keys.
For this upcoming spring break, there are trips to New Orleans, San Antonio, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Alexia Arellano is leading the trip to Ecuador after her experience last spring break on a SERVE trip. They will be going to La Fundación Santo Domingo de Guzmán. At this center, various aspects of life are addressed in order to help those in the community of Ibarra in Quito. They help in various aspects such as education, dental and general health, community outreach, health promotion and they also have a pantry.
“It’s important to get to see how different lives can be, and despite those differences, whether economical or cultural, we all have a common goal and we can all help each other in unexpected ways,” said Arellano.
Another trip that is taking place this break is to San Antonio, Texas. This trip is led by Dominique Spano. They will be staying at St. John Bosco School for the week. They are planning religious retreats for first through eighth graders.
“I am hoping the members of our trip will be able to connect more with their faith and bring it to the students we will be ministering to. In turn, I hope it will inspire those students and they will continue growing in the faith and relationship with God,” said Spano.