Helping Students Enjoy Trips of a Lifetime

Published May 11, 2023

Encouraging volunteerism through TRIPS

Back when Tim Reilley ’52 was the director of seminary at St. Norbert Abbey in 1960, he saw a need to encourage seminarians to expand their world beyond the safe, friendly confines of the building. He coordinated volunteer activities for the seminarians to pursue outside the abbey walls and witnessed firsthand the ways that community service contributed to their personal growth.

Flash forward more than half a century, and Tim and his wife, Janet Nelson, continue to champion volunteerism by including financial support for the St. Norbert College TRIPS program through a legacy gift designation in their estate plans.

TRIPS, which stands for Turning Responsibility Into Powerful Service, is an alternative winter — or spring — break service program. Through hands-on education, service and reflection, the program equips students to grow to become engaged citizens who strengthen communities by committing to social justice.

“We do what we can,” Tim says humbly. “The purpose of our support is to give toward the enlargement of students’ backgrounds, to help them build an even more well-rounded life.”

The TRIPS program made its return to projects outside of the local area in March 2023 after the pandemic had limited those opportunities the previous few years. Prior to the pandemic, the program had consistently ranked in the top 10 largest service-trip programs in the country based on percentage of student participation during their four years on campus.

Students who participated over spring break this year provided service at nonprofit agencies addressing homelessness, animal welfare, environmental sustainability and children’s healthcare.

Tim explains, “We support the TRIPS program to help students think of what they can do in their lives to generate a deeper sense of purpose, and to make a positive influence on society in general.”

The TRIPS program is one example of how a legacy gift commitment can align with the college’s mission, deliver a transformative experience for students and impact the world as a whole. If you would like to explore how to designate a legacy gift to benefit future students in a particular way at St. Norbert College, contact Kevin LeBeau at 920-403-4059 or kevin.lebeau@snc.edu.

Recent TRIPS participants reflect on their experiences
Spending time at a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter was an eye-opening experience for Emily Mitchell ’23, who hails from the small city of Algoma, Wis. (pop. 3,219). As an early childhood education major, she was interested in increasing her understanding of what this largely hidden social problem might look like for some of her future students.

“Something that surprised me was the connection between homelessness and mental illness, and how that’s kind of a cycle,” Emily says. “That’s something I hadn’t connected on my own before.”

Emily was able to help one of the shelter residents fill out job applications and see the rewards of those efforts almost immediately. During the week, the client went through the process of getting a job interview, doing well at his appointment and actually getting the job.

“Learning about what homelessness looks like in Green Bay is really important to me,” she states. “I want to understand what the homeless population looks like in Green Bay and what needs they have that might be different than what I saw in Washington, D.C., and try to figure out how I can support that community here.”

Coltin Anderson ’25 doesn’t shy away from physical labor — and that is exactly what he got as the leader of the animal welfare team that traveled to North Carolina. The group moved a lot of rock in building safer paths for visitors at a tiger enclosure. Seeing the animals hit a soft spot in Coltin that has him thinking about ways to help them in the future.

“Going on this trip made me want to look into more of a legal setting, because there are laws against owning exotic pets,” he says. “I feel I could do more for the greater good if I did something legally rather than in a volunteer way.”

Miranda Lobermeier ’23 participated in her fourth TRIPS group and second out-of-state experience after being fortunate to travel to Arkansas Children’s Hospital just prior to the pandemic lockdowns of 2020. This time, as a leader with the environmental sustainability group in Asheville, N.C., she gained additional leadership experience that built on her interpersonal skills.

“It’s definitely out of my comfort zone a little bit,” she admits. “I tend to be more of an introvert, so talking to people is sometimes tricky for me. But that’s something I’ve grown into a bit as I’ve gotten into college more. Public speaking, working with different people, all those types of things have helped me grow so much during my four years in the program.”

Hannah Wenzel ’24 reinforced her desire to pursue a career in healthcare with an added focus on service work after her experience with kids at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. One young patient appreciated her work so much that after learning nine of her friends were also volunteering in the hospital, he informed Hannah that she actually had one more friend than that.

“Well, you’re my friend now,” he said.

“I think I’ll remember that for a very long time,” Hannah says. “This experience was amazing. Having had the experience of being able to interact so closely with the patients and my teammates has made me realize that I really do want to continue doing service in my future. No matter where I go next, I think service is always going to be a part of what I do.”

Learn more about the ways students’ lives are impacted through the TRIPS service program.