To many, summer means a break from school and trips to the beach. But for a handful of University of Maryland students, the season represents something quite different.
About 20 UMd. undegrads are participating in Cru Summer Projects this year across the nation and around the world.
Cru—or Campus Crusade for Christ—is a national organization offering spiritual growth and healing to thousands of students annually. Over the past 40 years, hundreds of thousands have participated in summer projects coordinated by the group.
This year, UMd. participants have fanned out to locations from Ocean City, MD, to Venezuela and India. In all, Cru is leading about 200 different projects in 2012, ranging from leadership building to working with troubled youth.
Erin Glinowiecki, a senior sociology major, is spending eight weeks in Bailey, CO, working with inner city youth who have grown up in troubled areas. Each week, Glinowiecki and other mentors work with a new group of elementary to high school-aged children.
“The most memorable thing for me is to see how the kids grow so much by the end of the week,” Glinowiecki said. “Hopefully they go home and make different decisions. Seeing these kids excited about god is just pretty cool.”
Roddy Aguirre, a senior community health major, is spending 10 weeks in Hampton Beach, NH, doing outreach and discussing scripture with the community.
“I expected to come in here to reach out to other people, but it has been more than that,” Aguirre said. “It has been a humbling experience showing me that the gospel is something people need to hear.”
Emily Dumm, a senior material science and engineering major, recently got back from a two week project in Boston focusing on campus leadership training. The project, named Echo, teaches students how to do campus ministry and talk about faith with friends and strangers, Dumm said.
“A lot of people are just touched that we took the time out of our day to listen to them about their lives, and that is something really easy to do,” she said.
The students must raise all of the money to pay for their trips, said Ryan Penley, Cru's campus director. The cost can range between $1,500 and $5,500, but Penley said it's worth it.
“The trips themselves are just huge for students. You’re talking about a summer away from classes and their normal life to step out in faith and step out into the unknown," he said.
Penley, who has gone on two mission trips as a student and two as a staff member, is pleased that so many students will experience the trips this year.
“It’s always encouraging to see any student go,” he added. “But to see twenty go is pretty fun.”