Written By: Daniel Warnecke 17′

University breaks are meant for kicking your feet up and relaxing—or are they? The Castleton University Rotaract Club thinks otherwise. The club just recently broke this stereotype, during the university’s winter break, by attending an awe-inspiring, amazingly successful mission trip to Vero Beach, Florida, through Epic Missions, Inc. The Rotaract Club understands that there is nothing wrong with rejuvenating oneself over a break, but the club also understands that nothing beats the “high” one feels from a fruitful service trip.

When one thinks of Florida, poverty doesn’t really cross the mind, but the Rotaract Club witnessed poverty, and a great amount of it, first hand. Vero Beach, Florida is seen by many as the land of the rich, with sprawling, ocean-side mini-mansions as far as the eye can see. But, this mindset is not the complete truth. What people don’t see within the outskirts of the city could easily leave them in a state of shock. Poverty is a common word in the Vero Beach area, and the need that we witnessed as a club was incredible. Homes were falling apart, roadways were overgrown, crime was a normalcy, and families, everywhere, were broken. At times, some club members stated that they forgot that they were in the United States; they felt like they were in a third-world country, not the richest country in the world. So, the Rotaract Club got to work—and quickly. The club cleared land for a future homeless shelter for pregnant women, stocked shelves at local thrift stores and discount food stores, painted a family home in dire need of a facelift, cleaned up the facilities of a nonprofit organization called Operation Hope, and even had the amazing opportunity to visit with young children (who were less fortunate than most Americans) within local schools to play and teach.

The Rotaract Club is an officially recognized Rotary club within Rotary International—a worldwide, nonprofit organization. Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self,” and the Rotaract Club’s Vero Beach mission trip truly lived up to this motto. But, the Rotaract Club’s actions also lived up to something much closer to us all: the Castleton way. Castleton University has always been a place of love and service to others, and the Castleton way was evident within many of the Rotaract Club members, throughout the mission trip. The trip helped the club members gather a better understanding of the real world, and country, that we are apart of daily. I, the club’s very lucky President, have been blessed to see this unfold within the minds of multiple Rotaract Club members for the past four years—something that I will always personally cherish.

My hope for the future of the Rotaract Club is that it continues to create these eye-opening moments for students, and my hope for our amazing university, with a BIG heart, is that it continues to move forward in the direction of the true Castleton Way. Helping others is always the answer.