The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Students meet Tommy Thompson

Submitted photo

Instead of a typical winter break consisting of spending time with family and friends, 34 UW-Eau Claire students chose to spend a week of their time volunteering in Washington, D.C.

Ten of the students belong to the Association of Student Social Workers. Seven non-students, as well as students from UW- Madison, UW-Stout and the Milwaukee School of Engineering volunteered their time.

Donald Wisner of the Ecumenical Religious Center has organized the trip for the past 10 years. Members of the group volunteered in disadvantaged schools and women’s shelters in the Washington, D.C. area. Students had the optional advantage of earning service-learning credit for their work.

During the week some outside events were planned for the evenings. Everyone had the chance to listen and talk with former governor, Tommy Thompson.

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Thompson, who is the Secretary of Health and Human Services, talked about health care costs, anthrax and preparation for biochemical warfare.

Some students encountered a surprise opportunity when meeting with Thompson. The assistant press secretary for Thompson is an Eau Claire graduate. Kevin Keane offered job-shadowing and help for students in obtaining internships.

Students spent another evening listening to three African refugees who talked about hardships and experiences that caused them to come to the United States.

Senior Andrea Bulen said she decided to go on the trip after hearing about it at the ERC and from friends who participated in the past, she said.

Bulen volunteered in a junior high school for an eighth grade math class, she said. Occasionally Bulen helped the teacher but spent most of the time helping students with their questions.

Another student, senior Mollie Morse, worked with third-graders who were having trouble with their work. Morse participated in the trip to gain more interactions with diversity and minorities, she said.

There was a shortage of teachers for the amount of students as well as a lack of resources, Morse said. Teaching is especially difficult because many of the students use English as a second language, she said.

“These kids don’t have the same things we have,” Morse said.

Morse will be graduating next year as a social work major and would like to have this opportunity again in the future.

Suzanne Slota, an Eau Claire alumna, participated throughout her college experience. She heard of the opportunity through the University Lutheran Church.

Slota initially volunteered for elementary schools and a junior high, she said. This year Slota worked in one of the women’s shelters. She spent most of the time talking or playing cards with the women, Slota said.

There were many activities for the women, such as dance and aerobics classes, she said.

Slota had the responsibility of being one of the two group leaders on the trip. This involved orienting new students about what should be expected, she said. She also helped Wisner with some of the planning for the trip.

“I think it’s such a wonderful opportunity,” Slota said.

It offers perspective for members of the group through exposure to diversity and different situations, Slota said.

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Students meet Tommy Thompson