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Students, faculty and staff take service trip to South Dakota

4/23/2012 —

When they could be unwinding after a week off finals, a group of Penn State New Kensington students will be gearing up to head to the Badlands of South Dakota for a service trip that will not only help those in need, but serve as a cross cultural exchange for all involved.

Along with two faculty and three staff members from the campus, students will help install computers at Native American social service agencies, including Sacred Heart Center in Eagle Butte.

Among the Penn State staff and faculty attending are Director of Student Affairs Theresa Bonk and Information Science and Technology instructor Gary Heberling.

“It’s going to be a history lesson, a cultural lesson, a lesson on geography – it’s going to be a lesson on a lot of things,” said Gabriel Gardiner, a 26-year old Lower Burrell resident and adult student in the Organizational Leadership program at Penn State New Kensington. Gardiner, who is working on a math minor, is one of the nine students going on the trip.

Helping to support the trip is the Rotary service organization. That includes not only the New Kensington Rotary Club, but, according to Gardiner, a South Korean Rotary Club and also the international Rotary Foundation.

Outreach is important to Rotary, Gardiner said. He is president of Penn State New Kensington’s Rotaract club, a service organization sponsored by Rotary for people ages 18 to 30.

“At the very heart of what Rotary and Rotaract does, it’s a service organization to help people who need help the most,” he said. “This is pretty much doing what the core of Rotary is all about.”

In addition to the service work, those on the trip will also give presentations to Lakota Sioux students to share information about the student experience at Penn State New Kensington and some personal information about themselves.

Those going on the trip will also work directly with St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, Bonk said. The school serves children from the Lakota Sioux Nation. Also included on the itinerary are visits to the Wounded Knee Massacre site, Red Cloud Indian School Heritage Center and Mount Rushmore.

Gardiner credits the dedication and awareness of Penn State New Kensington faculty and staff for making such an experience possible.

“They’re really aware,” he said. “They want to expose the students to more than academics, one of the goals for the Penn State New Kensington faculty and staff is to tie in the academic issues with real world issues and current issues.”

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