While thousands of college students are spending Spring Break in the sun on a beach, some students are using their break for community service.

While thousands of college students are spending Spring Break in the sun on a beach, some students are using their break for community service.

A group of 42 young people, working together for four hours on Sunday morning in Carthage, saved the city thousands of dollars in labor costs while cleaning up blighted, abandoned properties.

The students were from North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University-Mankato and they are taking a “Pay It Forward” Tour, sponsored by the Minneapolis, Minn.-based Students Today Leaders Forever.

They are using their Spring Break to travel from Fargo, N.D. to San Antonio, Tex. working on service projects in communities as they go.

On Saturday night and Sunday morning, they spent the night at the Grace Pointe Assembly of God Church on Baker Street. Sunday morning they had breakfast at the Carthage Crisis Center and heard from Brian and Marilyn Bisbee about the center and its mission.

Tom Ballard, the bus driver for the students with Minnesota Tours, said Carthage was their second stop after Des Moines, Ia.

“They could be in Cancun or somewhere else, but they come out and do these projects for people,” Ballard said after he helped the students push down a wall of a burned out garage they were tearing down at a home at Macon and James streets. “This group here is going to Little Rock and Waco and San Antonio. They go from town to town, do service projects, then move on to the next town.”

The students had four hours to spend in Carthage and Code Enforcers Shaun Smith and Lynn Shelley used them for four different projects, all at homes that have been abandoned and gone through the foreclosure process and are now owned by the banks
The majority of the students tore down a burned out garage and the remains of a shed at a home on James Street at the corner of Macon Street.

“We just want to spread the love a little bit, so that’s why we’re here,” said NDSU student Nicholas Conner. “We just helped demolish this little shed here and it was a lot of fun. We got to bust some walls. We’re stopping at six locations just to do service projects and part of that is just wanting to give back to the community.”

Sam Erickson, another NDSU student, said he was having a good time on the trip, helping strangers and making new friends.

I’d rather be volunteering, helping people out, that kind of stuff,” Erickson said. “It’s more fulfilling than just going out somewhere else. I like it better personally.”
Other students helped clean trash at three other abandoned homes, or painted over graffiti in the 1300 block of Olive St.

Taylor Schulte, a “veteran” of other STLF trips, said she was along to help guide the students on their trip.

“STLF is such a great organization,” Schulte said. “It’s an alternative for Spring Break for kids who pay it forward and want to do good things. We pay it forward so we do good works for people and we hope they continue it for people they meet in the future.”

Carthage Police Officer Dan Fox supervised the graffiti painting and helped drive the students to the homes and street crew personnel gave up their Sunday to drive dump trucks and a front-end loader.

Carthage Codes Enforcer Shaun Smith said the students did work that he’s been trying to get done for years.

“All these homes have been foreclosed on,” Smith said. “Some have been empty for five years. The bank hired crews to do some cleanup on some of them, but these piles were in the back of the yards. It’s unbelievable what they managed to accomplish in four hours. To have 42 students, willing to give up their spring break to help strangers, its great.”

Gladys Asa, a NDSU student from Fargo, said she’s working hard and having fun on her Spring Break.

“I may need a Spring Break from my Spring Break,” Asa said. “We want to maybe set an example of serving your community. It’s been great to be in Carthage and the kindness that’s been shown to us. We want to make that part of our lives and get to see a nice part of this community too.”