Myrtle Beach, SC‐ Not even freezing temperatures could keep 24 college students from volunteering a few days of their winter break to help build a house for a family in need. On January 3‐6, seniors from the Institute for Leadership Advancement’s Leonard Leadership Scholars Program (LLSP), along with a few chaperones, traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to participate in a three-day Habitat for Humanity build.

Courtney Parsons, a senior from St. Simons Island and the class officer in charge of planning the trip, states, “Despite the freezing temperatures, everyone truly had servant hearts. We were up early every morning to get to the work site and by the time our lunch break came around, we practically had to take the tools out of peoples’ hands to force them to stop for a minute to eat.”

As an annual service trip, the LLSP’s senior class volunteers their time and talents to a community or group in need and uses the opportunity to continue their leadership development before the start of a new semester.

Atlanta native Robert Thrasher chose ‘The Heart, Mind, and Will of Service’ as the theme for the trip. “Considering the heart, mind and will of service forces us to look into the ‘why’ behind our service. I think it is important to consider our motivations for serving so as to serve more purposely and effectively,” he says.

Jeff Fletcher, a first-year MBA student and graduate assistant in the ILA office chaperoned and described the group morale as “unbelievable.” “Having worked with youth at many levels over more than a decade,” he says, “I can attest that the relentless positivity, depth of care, integrity, support, and humor of this group of students would be hard to match”.

Previous Leonard Scholars traveled to New Orleans for their service trips, but this group of seniors wanted to do something different. Parsons explains, “I realized there was a true need even closer to home. I spent the fall contacting over 20 different Habitat for Humanity organizations across the Southeast. The Myrtle Beach volunteer coordinator contacted me almost immediately and was extremely helpful in accommodating our large group.”

While the screeching of power tools and incessant hammering of nails might not have been the peaceful winter break most University students desire, this group of students couldn’t get enough.

“I had a blast working with our class at the build site. It was pretty cool to look up from my work and see how each of us was carrying out our own responsibilities,” says Thrasher. Fletcher adds, “Regardless of the cold or the hunger each member of the Scholars elevated their own performance and embraced the challenge with open arms.”

The memories and satisfaction that these students brought away from the trip will last a lifetime. Parsons says, “Seeing the enthusiasm and passion that our Scholars class brought to Myrtle Beach was inspiring. By the conversations, commitment, and passion shown on our trip, I know our commitment to service is just beginning.”