I knew Wittenberg was the perfect place for me when I was welcomed with open arms by the soccer team, faculty, and other members of the Wittenberg community. I am a sophomore majoring in finance with a minor in business management, from New Albany, Ohio. With the endless opportunities provided at Wittenberg, I keep busy as a member of Wittenberg’s women’s soccer team, Gamma Phi Beta, and the Honors Program. I am also a Student Leader Fellow, involved with Student Senate, and work jobs both in the business office and Writing Center.
I never really understood at first why everyone warns people about becoming too involved, but at a school like Wittenberg, you will quickly learn that the next opportunity is right around the corner. For me, one of those opportunities happened to be a trip that would change my perspective on life and the direction that I hope my life moves in. The service immersion trip to Panama City, Florida, this past spring break (March 8-14) put on by The Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders, is a trip that I think everyone would benefit from.
Attending a university that emphasizes passing our light and engaging in community service was something important to me throughout my college search. My teammates always used to talk about their service trip to Georgia with the Fuller Center for Housing and shared stories of how much their experience had impacted them. So, when this past spring break rolled around, I knew I wanted to do something similar.
Going into the week, I had no clue what we would be doing, how much we would be interacting with the community, and how much need exists in Panama City. The first night of the trip, we were told that Hurricane Michael (2018) damaged more than 7,000 homes and that it would take another 10 years to restore the community. It was one thing to hear those statistics, but another to physically go and work on the houses.
The first day on the job, I became a little overwhelmed with all of the tools and responsibilities that we would hold working on Mrs. Sandra’s house. Throughout the week, we learned that Mrs. Sandra is an elderly woman who has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has been taking care of her grandchild. On top of all life’s struggles, her home was damaged by the brutal hurricane. It was an incredibly humbling experience to work with Mrs. Sandra on her home, as we painted, cleaned, and installed trimming around her house. Their community reminded me a lot of Wittenberg’s in that people seem very close with each other, always trying to give a hand to help.
In working on her brother’s house down the street doing the same kind of work, there were multiple times where I saw neighbors checking in or people driving by asking what still needed to be done. It was that close-knit community that reminded me of the people I love so much at Wittenberg. It is people like Tony, Aaron, and chef Dave that inspire me to do my part in serving others and be a part of a greater good. Although I learned how to use tools and more about construction that week, I walked away from this experience with a fuller heart and desire to change and impact my Wittenberg community.
I quickly learned that there are a lot of things I cannot control. But in the uplifting week I had, these people have shown me how to be truly be grateful for what I have, the people I know, and the experiences I am given. I am blessed with a roof over my head and have the capabilities of helping others. At a school like Wittenberg, I am pushed outside my comfort zone and am encouraged to pass my light on. I have grown so much since I have been here, and never want to take my education and experience at Wittenberg for granted.
To the people of Panama City, thank you for showing me how to be a better community member and opening my eyes to how the world affects people from all over. In the future, I would love to be able to serve like this again. Donating time and money, prayer, and overall spreading the word about the needs of hurting communities are things that Panama City is looking for. I am confident that I was made into a more understanding person during spring break week.
If anybody is unsure about how to complete their community service in the future, I would highly recommend learning about the service trips that Wittenberg offers. Although I am unsure about what my life will look like in the next couple of years, I am confident that this trip will impact my heart moving forward and will shape my perspective on helping others in whatever I decide to do. Thank you, Wittenberg University, Fuller Center Disaster ReBuilders, and the Panama City community for teaching me so much.
Maria Miller ’22
Hometown: New Albany, Ohio
Minor: Business Management