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Students benefit from varied summer experiences

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The necessity of getting a summer job led to unique, enriching experiences for several Bethel College students – from seeing a Chinese child begin to adapt to America to playing a saxophone on top of a table to dressing up as a giant torch.

Rachel Gaeddert, sophomore from Larned, worked at DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) in Denver, where she led youth and family groups who volunteered at Metro Care Ring, a Denver food pantry. She often worked at the food pantry’s front desk, doing simple case management intakes to determine the needs of clients, or back in the pantry with the volunteers, who would “go shopping” for the aid recipients, she says.

As a DOOR staff person, Gaeddert also spent some nights at the church where the groups stayed, doing everything from cleaning, cooking and washing dishes to organizing games to leading worship and singing in the evening.

DOOR was something she “really enjoyed,” Gaeddert says. “It affirmed my desire to be a social work major here at Bethel.” She added that the experience also made her want to pursue another voluntary service assignment in the future, and she recommends DOOR to anyone who might be interested.

Junior business major Tyler Schroeder, Goessel, spent the summer living in an RV park in Nebraska, working with the Nebraska Sports Council through an internship program he found online.

Schroeder’s main task was helping to organize the Cornhusker State Games, a massive event based in Lincoln and involving around 60 different sites and more than 12,000 athletes. While most of his work involved setting up before and tearing down after the games, Schroeder also enjoyed the opportunity to dress up as an eight-foot-tall inflatable torch mascot to entertain a group of kids.

Schroeder says this internship seemed particularly fitting because of his interest in sports and event management. He hopes to do another internship in the next few years and eventually work with the NCAA or NAIA.

Sam Gaeddert, junior art major from Hutchinson, worked in Chicago with the Artreach program through Lillstreet Art Center. He did some office work, but spent most of his time driving around the city in the “clay mobile” teaching children’s classes in painting, sculpting and hand building.

It could be a challenge, Gaeddert said, especially when he was teaching 26 kids, most of whom spoke English as a second language, in a broken-down, one-room building with no running water and only a bit of clay. That assignment lasted five weeks.

However, looking back, Gaeddert says he could not have been more fortunate. “As hard and as terrifying as that teaching experience was for me,” he says, “it forced me to see just what was out there and really opened my eyes to the different sorts of art opportunities. While I don’t necessarily want to head up or be a part of a non-profit organization – although I have never-ending appreciation for any non-profit organization – it helped me immensely to see my options in terms of job placement opportunities.”

Sarah Buller, senior from Lenexa, also spent the summer working with children as a lead teacher for Riverview Summer Camp, organized through Johnson County Parks and Recreation. This involved working with 100 kids in class sizes of 20 to 30 – playing games, leading crafts and taking them on field trips, such as to a Kansas City Royals game and Science City, and to the pool three times a week.

The experience was not at all what she expected, says Buller, a psychology major, and it left her with an increased respect for elementary school teachers and elementary education majors. One of the most special parts of the summer, Buller says, was working with a child who had been adopted from China just a few months earlier and was in the camp in order to socialize with other children. “Watching him learning and opening up over the course of the summer was something I will remember forever,” she says.

In an almost complete contrast, Joel Linscheid, senior music major from North Newton, played saxophone in a band on a cruise ship to Alaska. The eight-piece group, the HALcats (for Holland-America Line), played mostly Top 40 dance music from the ’50s onward, Linscheid says, but toward the end of the summer started playing more jazz, which was “a welcome change.” At that point, the band was reduced in size and Linscheid served as band leader.

Linscheid – called “Flip” for the summer because one of the featured performers was also named Joel – says he was inspired to spend the summer this way because of the example of teachers who had done so. He recommended it as a good way to get experience in the music industry.

He enjoyed participating in the stage shows, including an Elton John tribute in which he engaged in a staged rivalry with “the other Joel,” walking into the audience while soloing and eventually finishing his solo standing on a table.

Linscheid says some of his best experiences came when he could get off the ship and see the beautiful scenery in Alaska. He went hiking near Juneau, Sitka and Skagway, where “the scenery is spectacular and it was a welcome change from the weekly monotony of life on the ship.”

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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