Call it the anti-spring-break.
If the annual bacchanalia in places like Daytona and Ft. Lauderdale is the height of youthful self-indulgence, then the School of Law’s Mission: Possible program is just the opposite; a chance for law students to travel to tropical locales and work on more than just their tans.
Last March, 24 Gonzaga Law students made up two Mission: Possible teams that traveled internationally to volunteer in various community service projects.
Students worked with Sister Island Project, a non-profit community development organization that fosters cultural, technical and educational exchange among island residents and residents of the Students worked in the town of Cruz Verde, where they helped paint a community learning center, played with local children, and got a taste of island culture. In the evenings, they lodged with local families.
Meanwhile, the other Mission: Possible team in flew into San Jose and then bussed four hours to a Manzanillo, a coastal village of 200 near a national forest. There, they removed garbage from the beach, groomed popular hiking trails, and gathered logs for barricades that would be used to keep tourists from driving on the beach.
The two trips marked the second year for Mission: Possible, which last year sent a single team of students. A similar Mission: Possible program with a focus in the community, is available to Gonzaga undergraduates.
Laura Dykes, (’05), kept a journal of her trip. In it, she waxes ecstatic about “clear, blue-green water as warm as a bath,” as well as breakfasts of “fresh mango, eggs, toast, and some of the most delicious coffee you can imagine.” She recalls the grueling labor of filling sacks with sand and hauling them up a steep trail as part of a maintenance crew. She also remembers the wild sloths, yellow vipers, and howler monkeys her crew was later shown as a reward for their hard work.
Sarah Fudge (’05), was part of the original team of law students who went to the Dominican Republic in 2004, and helped organized this year’s trips. She says spending spring break performing community service can be just as “refreshing” as spending it lying on the beach. She also says it’s a logical extension of a Gonzaga School of Law education.
“(My trip) reminded me that I didn’t come to Gonzaga just to learn about the law, but, rather, to learn about what my place is within my community, be that Spokane or the global community. It reminded me that there is more to life than just studying and that I can do something to make a difference in the life of someone around me.”
“Being part of the trip affirmed for me that, as a lawyer, I don’t want to just sit in an office all day,” she adds. “I want to be an active part of the world around me, and to use the skills I attained at Gonzaga…to make a difference.”
The law school’s program is organized by the Thomas More Scholars, students who receive merit scholarships based on a demonstrated commitment to public interest law. The group began fundraising for the project last fall, and received generous support from area restaurants, the Student Bar Association, and others.
A similar Mission: Possible project for next spring is in the planning stages.