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FHSU students head south for the winter

By ABBY BELDEN

abelden@dailynews.net

While many students are lounging during winter break, 17 Fort Hays State University students will be busy in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Tigers in Service is taking the group to Tuscaloosa for their annual Alternative Winter Break, which will help rebuild homes that were destroyed in the April 2011 EF5 tornado.

Becca Kohl, co-director of Tigers in Service and a sophomore at FHSU, said the Alternative Winter Break offers students something to do, other than just sitting at home.

Kohl said there will be 17 student-volunteers and one faculty member in Tuscaloosa from Jan. 13 to 19 to work with Habitat for Humanity.

TIS has been offering the alternative break for seven years, and the student volunteer outreach program has worked on hunger relief and helped victims of Hurricane Katrina and inner city communities.

The group of volunteers has grown since the first break was offered.

"I think the past three years, they have had that big of a group," Kohl said. "I think they started out with just seven people."

Each year, TIS advertises the alternative break seeking volunteers.

Kohl said each volunteer approved for the trip is required to fill out an application and go through an interview process.

She said TIS was looking for people who are "passionate and want to help, rather than just doing it to put it on a resume."

Shana Meyer, assistant vice president for student affairs, is faculty sponsor for the upcoming trip.

"I'll just help make sure the students get to where they need to be on time and help in case there (are) any major decisions that need to made, or plans that need to be changed," Meyer said.

Meyer said the trip, her first as sponsor, is funded by allocations through the FHSU Student Government Association.

The group has a 15.5-hour car ride before arriving in Tuscaloosa.

Kohl said the group will work at specified sites about eight hours each day.

According to the Tuscaloosa's Habitat for Humanity website, each homeowner is required to complete core classes. The courses include future planning, understanding financial literacy and critical life skills.

Habitat for Humanity also requires "sweat equity," which requires homeowners to invest 250 hours of work in rebuilding their home.

Meyer said she hopes the students get the overall experience and importance of giving to others.

"I think it's going to be a great learning experience for us all," she said.