Last, But Not Least

This year I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about ASB–how to expand our marketing efforts, increase alumni participation, enhance programming, etc. I’ve also been working on creating a Gala dinner to celebrate and promote the club’s 21 year history. The purpose of all of this work is to promote why ASB is such a fantastic experience–learning about a new social issue, being thrown out of “Lafayette’s bubble,” becoming friends with a group of people I might not have otherwise known on campus. I’m excited to be reminded of this powerful experience to which over 500 alumni and current students can relate.

My senior thesis, in part, looks at the effects of India’s waste problem. In our pre-trip education, we learned about the effects of ambient light (bad because it guides turtles in the wrong direction), trash (again, bad for killing turtles and/or effecting their migration pattern), fishing (bad–do you sense a trend here–because the sea turtles get accidentally caught in the lines or hooks). Like all social issues, sea turtle conservation is complex as there are cultural and economical forces also at play.

In sum, I’m excited to learn firsthand about this social issue and enjoy another ASB journey with Lafayette peers…And while getting to the airport at 4:15 AM will be rough, it surely will be worth it in the end!

Night Before The Trip!

I can’t believe that the “What A Disaster” team’s experience will finally start tomorrow!! I’ve been thinking about this trip since proposing it last spring and now it’s finally here. I am so excited to engage in another service trip. Four years ago, I traveled to New Orleans for VENAVER (“Come and See”), my high school’s equivalent of Alternative School Break. It was during this experience that I became interested in disaster relief and recovery. The team did various relief projects around the city, met inspiring community members who worked to rebuild their communities, and toured New Orleans to see the remaining damage five years after the storm. I think the image still stuck in my mind is the houses with Xs on the doors from the initial search and rescue efforts.

I don’t know what quite to expect in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Although I’ve been on the East Coast since Hurricane Sandy, I have only been to the Jersey Shore once so I can’t fathom what the areas look like about a year and a half after Hurricane Sandy. I am interested to compare my experiences from New Orleans to that of New Jersey and learn firsthand about how the government–specifically FEMA–responded before and after the storm. While the team has done research and discussed it as a group, hearing accounts firsthand always seem to paint a better picture of the situation on the ground. As one of the more seasoned ASBers on the trip, I am looking forward to guiding rookie ASB members during this trip. All of my VENAVER, ASB, and BreakAway experiences have been transformative and full of direct service, wonderful reflections, new friendships, inside jokes, laughter, and overall rejuvenation and renewal. As a result, I can’t wait to see what this What A Disaster! experiences has in store!!

ABC Atlanta

I applied to attend the ABCs because I was interested in the theme for the week, asset based community development (ABCD). When I read the description of ABCD, it reminded me Café Reconcile, a great restaurant and organization in New Orleans (check it out! I had visited Café Reconcile my junior year of high school during a service trip, and its economic model has been imprinted in my mind. I did not know how to transfer that idea to ASB, however, and that is why I wanted to attend the conference.

My week in Atlanta helped to clarify that ASB trips can participate in asset based community development by finding community partners that focus on this. For example, during the week we volunteered at Healthy Belvedere, Atwood Community Gardens, and Park Pride by doing landscaping work. All of these organizations used Atlanta’s assets (weather, empty lots, neighborhood pride etc.) to address the obesity epidemic in Atlanta.

The week was about more than just ABCD though. Half of the days were spent in workshops about all the different aspects of an ASB trip or at speaker panels with local community leaders. Ideas were exchanged between all of the different programs. It was great to hear about the different methods used by other programs and to meet other students involved in their respective programs. Although the week was exhausting, I left Atlanta feeling renewed and full of energy for the coming school year and more ASB experiences!

Oh nooo, ASB trip over

Just like everyone else on the team, I can’t believe our week in Camp Baker is over and that we’ve now been back on College Hill for over a week. How can I properly sum up such a great week (if that’s even possible)?


Working at Camp Baker was definitely challenging at times, especially in the beginning when we didn’t have any guidelines about how to best structure the wellness and arts and crafts activities. Luckily, we were able to learn from our mistakes during the beginning of the week to make the activities better structured for the campers. The changes made a difference and everyone really benefited!


One of the highlights of my week was getting to know one of the weekend respite and afternoon campers named Ian. We arrived at Camp Baker on Saturday night and Sunday morning we were told to interact with the campers the next morning. I met Ian by chance. With him he had his sleep away duffel all packed and his favorite Disney toys. When I met him, he continually mumbled the same few lines over and over. I recognized that he was repeating a movie trailer because I picked up the words “coming to DVD and VHS soon.” Over the next hour or so I sat with him as he kept repeating the same few lines. Eventually, we walked to the basketball court and then to the sidewalk chalk. He set his stuff done, picked up a piece of chalk, handed it to me, pointed at the ground, and started talking. I started writing what he said and would have him repeat it until I could understand it. The first part he said was “Walt Disney Pictures presents feature.” Then came a breakthrough in a sense. I was able to finally understand that Walt Disney Pictures presents feature…Lilo and Stitch 2. Now on DVD and VHS”


I was overjoyed when I figured out he was talking about the movie trailer for Lilo and Stitch. I had spent the entire morning with him, and finally understood what he was saying, which was a minor step to better understanding what he was thinking.


The next day, when Ian came to Camp Baker for afternoon care, I saw him again. I don’t remember how it came about, but when I saw him I pulled up Lilo and Stitch Youtube video clips on my phone, which he loved. He would sit in the swing and watch the video clips every afternoon. At first he didn’t know how to use an iPhone—the correct pressure to apply to the touch screen, how to navigate, etc.—but by the end of the week he had figured it out all on his own. He would also interact more with me while using my iPhone. He asked for help when he needed it and responded to my questions more. When my iPhone died, it was harder to communicate with him because he returned to his continued mumbling.


Ian is such a cool kid. He loved Disney and everyone could tell that he was very smart and creative. I feel so lucky to have met him.  The Zac Brown lyrics still stick in my head when I think of spring break in Virginia: “It’s funny how it’s the little things in life/That mean the most/Not where you live or what you drive/Or the price tag on your clothes/There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind/This I’ve come to know.”

It really is the little things, like meeting Ian and figuring out how he loves Lilo and Stich, that I have come to realize mean so much. I feel so fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to go to Camp Baker and meet the ASB Virginia team. Thanks for everything!

Virginia here we come!

I applied for this trip in the middle of September. I had been on College Hill for less than a month and had begun to realize that while you may know someone on the surface, but until you know their past, you might not fully understand their present. When asked about my trip preference (there is another ASB trip going to Tennessee over spring break), this is what I responded:


During a diversity workshop during Orientation, one classmate responded that while many Lafayette students might wear Sperry Topsiders, JCrew, and North Face, there is no typical Lafayette student—everyone has a unique story. Furthermore, these unique stories often time include hardships unknown to most people. What I did not know at the time is that this classmate, now one of my closest friends at Lafayette, struggles with ADD.  After having reflected on the different excerpts from the diversity presentation and having spoken with this friend, I realize that there is so much more to each person than that is seen on the surface. I particularly want to work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities so that I cannot only show compassion, but also so that I can learn how the disabilities affect their lives. With this new knowledge, I would like to help educate the Lafayette community about people living with disabilities so that they, too, have a better understanding of these daily struggles. It is my hope that with this knowledge, both students at Lafayette and I think twice about how we judge people—that we get to know each individual thoroughly before making assumptions about why they act the way they do.  


Now fast forward to this past week. By the time Sunday, March 4th came around, I had been at Lafayette for almost a semester and a half. Everything had been going smoothly all year: classes, soccer, friendships, etc. Every once and a while, I would learn something about one of my friend’s past hardships, which briefly reminded me how easy my childhood was in comparison. Anyhoo, everyone had warned me that I would inevitably hit a freshman wall, and this past week definitely was my freshman wall.


Sunday night, my freshman wall began to form when I went to the McKelvy dinner discussion (everyone should go to at least one during their 4 years!) and loved it. Immediately following the discussion, I had to go to the freshman housing discussion. Long story short, everything started being turned upside down in regards my perspective on housing for next year. Ultimately, by the end of the discussion, I had realized that I wanted to apply to McKelvy, and I had my teammates’ support. The two-hour discussion between the eight of us had been somewhat long and awkward and it was inevitable that feelings would be hurt. It was slightly draining emotionally, but this little bump in the road was a good test for everyone’s friendships because as the saying goes, “true friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient; it’s about being there when it’s not.

The next day I was able to begin my application to the McKelvy. Mid-morning there was a bit of a health scare in my family. Unable to get a hold of my parents to find out what was going on, I was stressed out and scared. Throughout the day, friends, faculty, and staff at Lafayette continually supported me when I needed help. By the end of the day, I had learned that my sister was sick, but was going to be okay. Tuesday went well, although I was tired from everything. That night, however, I could not fall asleep. With two hours of sleep and having gone through a tough few days (respectively speaking), I finally left my own pity party Wednesday morning when I realized how truly great and blessed my life is. It took me until I wrote down all the good things in my life to fully realize how ridiculous I was behaving given the circumstances. I was worried about housing at that point. My sister was going to be okay, so I didn’t need to worry about that. Here’s an excerpt:


What is good in my life right now:

-I’m at the school I love.

-The people at Lafayette are great.

-Some important people in my life have stepped up and been there for me.

-My parents are healthy, supportive, and love me.

-My family is healthy (for the most part).

-The housing issue is trivial. Worst case? In a shitty dorm at the school I love.

-Cosmic Cup is always open when I need it.

There were many more bullet points on the list to remind me how great my life is. On the other side of the list, I put a poem that kept popping up in my mind this week. I had read it in Honors American Literature in high school, but found that it is applicable in college.


Richard Cory

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine — we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.

At the bottom of the poem, I wrote, “You don’t know everyone’s story. People definitely have it worse. Pull it together because you are only dealing with trivial issues in the grand scheme of things. What does not kill you makes you stronger. #firstworldproblems. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Essentially, I had come to the same conclusion that I wrote about in my ASB application. I had once again realized that I don’t know everyone’s story, but I know my own and I have been so lucky.

This week I have become more grateful, become closer friends with people because we faced adversity together, and got to enjoy one of the prettiest 70 degree winter March days Easton, PA has ever seen. All and all, I’d say that it was the perfect week to lead up to ASB Virginia.

In September, I had answer why I wanted to participate in ASB and what I hoped to gain. Here is my response:

First and foremost, I want to help people. I do not have as much time as I would like to volunteer during school because of the time commitment required of being a Division 1 soccer player. I have, however, a break from soccer during spring break. Secondly, after having spent a week in New Orleans for a service trip during my junior year of high school, I learned the importance of showing solidarity with those in need. Prior to the trip, I had pictured myself building houses; instead I was assigned to assist with much smaller projects such as helping seventh graders learn about the bayou and doing yard work at a house abandoned after the hurricane. I felt that I was not really doing much until I met Miss Madeline, an older woman whose house was destroyed by Katrina. When she returned to New Orleans, Miss Madeline sought volunteers to help rebuild her house and community. She was proactive and full of hope, even after all of the devastation. She taught me that even the smallest acts count to others and that just by being in New Orleans, I was helping the people’s hope and spirit. This message carries over to all acts of service. Thus I want to participate in Alternative School Break to not only help improve people’s physical environments, but also show solidarity. Ultimately, I hope to gain a better understanding about living life with a disability or living in rural Appalachia. 


My response still remains the same. I want to help people, show solidarity, but also see how people who face real adversity respond and keep such a positive outlook on life. As the Zac Brown Band sings it, “It’s funny how it’s the little things in life/That mean the most/Not where you live or what you drive/Or the price tag on your clothes/There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind/This I’ve come to know.”

So with that, I’m off to Cosmic so I can start the trip with a tall Mexican hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and a bialy with strawberry jam! I hope everyone has a wonderful spring break!

Abby Williams, Class of 2015