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Goodbye Iowa, hello Jamaica
Story by Sara Wesselmann, UNI University Relations online magazine and public relations assistant
When two University of Northern Iowa Pi Sigma Epsilon (PSE) students landed an internship with the Southwestern Company last summer, little did they know their experience wouldn't stop when the internship was complete.
Zach Riesberg, PSE president and junior marketing major, and Stephanie Smith, PSE vice president and senior communications/public relations major, were top interns for the Southwestern Company and were awarded a trip to Jamaica for their accomplishments.
While on the trip, Riesberg and Smith jumped at the opportunity to complete a service project at the New Vision School in Runaway Bay, Jamaica.
"PSE and Southwestern are very important to both Zach and me," said Smith. "We were excited to tie the two together while enjoying some time in Jamaica and participating in a service project to help others."
Riesberg and Smith took UNI T-shirts, left over from PSE's homecoming sales, to be given to students at the New Vision School.
"Seeing the state of the school-no running water, hardly a road to get there-was awakening; but to see how its depression did not affect the children was most uplifting," said Smith.
"The kids and teachers were just so happy to have us there," said Riesberg. "It's so important to take advantage of every opportunity placed in front of you, especially when it involves being able to help others."
"It wasn't the shirts and supplies that really made the children light up," said Smith. "It was the friendship and excitement we provided that made it an experience the children will never forget. It was their open hearts and genuine appreciation that made it a day we will always remember."
Riesberg and Smith spent their time in Runaway Bay interacting and playing with the children, playing soccer, finger painting, jumping rope and making paper airplanes.
"It was a humbling and heartwarming experience to see the connections made between us and the little kids, despite the cultural and economic differences that stood between us," Smith said. "It was eye-opening; I had never experienced anything like it before."
As Riesberg and Smith continue at UNI, they recognize how outreach and community service must continue to be a part of their college experience
"It is important for students to reach out, not only to expand their horizons, but to truly understand the magnitude of the dynamics among cultures," Smith said. "Though America is a diverse country, our eyes are often shielded from the disparity of its darkest corners. And when we close our eyes to poverty nearest us, it is even easier to turn our heads from that of cultures around the world. Reaching out helps us to witness and experience these differences as well as give of ourselves to those less fortunate."
"The kids and teachers were just so happy to have us there," said Riesberg. "It's so important to take advantage of every opportunity placed in front of you, especially when it involves being able to help others." Risberg (far left) and Stephanie Smith (far right) were awarded a trip to Jamaica because of their accomplishments in a summer internship. Capitalizing on the award, they decided to participate in a service project at the New Vision School in Runaway Bay, Jamaica.