Wildcats tackel wanderlust and wildfires over Spring Break

Nolan Krebs

Spring break: for most students, a phrase synonymous with all-out mental disengage and a momentary escape from the thralls of academia.

For some students, it’s a week-long chance to do something a little out of the ordinary. Take the student group Relevant, for example, who will be spending the days of their “mid-semester recess” rebuilding damaged homes in Georgia, and their nights in a converted women’s correctional facility.

“We were actually approached by individuals who had heard about our previous service projects and asked to come help,” said Relevant adviser Deborah Heino, who is better known amongst her peers as “Mama D.” “Northern seems to have a reputation for providing hard-working, energetic young people.”

The city of Adairsville, Ga. was hit hard by tornadoes in January, and according to an article published in the Athens Banner-Herald, the area sustained an estimated $75 million in losses.

While Relevant had been planning on heading to Virginia for a spring break project, Heino said, a last-minute decision was made to change course.

“Relevant has been doing spring break trips since we started on campus in 2005, so it’s sort of an ongoing thing,” Heino said. “We find a different area to go to, usually it’s one that has been hit by a disaster.”

For sophomore health and fitness management major Alex Kerlin, the chance to help out others seemed like an obvious choice.

“I signed up because I wanted to do something different for spring break and I have had life changing experiences on mission trips before,” Kerlin said. “So this was a great opportunity.”

The trip is also an opportunity to meet new people and build relationships, he said.
“I am mostly looking forward to getting to know everyone that’s going and I’m excited to help others,” Kerlin said. “And hopefully learn some new skills like plumbing or how to put up drywall.”

According to the NMU student organization website, Relevant is “an outreach to the campus of [NMU] to show that Christianity is a lifestyle relevant to today’s world.” The group is affiliated with the Good News Assembly of God Church in Ishpeming, and participates in a number of community service projects throughout the year. However, Heino said any sort of religious affiliation isn’t required to participate in service projects.

“We’re the only organization on campus that offers trips where you don’t have to be a part of our organization or join afterwards,” Heino said. “You just have to follow the rules.”
Heino said in addition to the Georgia trip, Relevant is best-known on campus for the Safe Rides Program, which offers students who have been drinking a ride home on days like St. Patrick’s Day and Halloween.

Currently, Relevant has 17 individuals signed up for the upcoming service trip, Heino said.

The cost is $350, which includes transportation, lodging and most of the meals.

Another group of students spending their break in a relatively atypical manner are those enrolled in RE495. The course is a week-long firefighting course that takes place in Jackonsville, Fla., said senior environmental science major Dan Love.

“During the course of the week my classmates and I will be considered part of a Type II crew participating in prescribed burns and fuels projects,” Love said. “We’ll be working with hand tools, Type 6 wildland fire engines and setting up portable water pumps.”

Love said he enrolled in the class because it would strengthen his resume when he applies for wildland firefighting jobs over the summer and to experience something new over break.

“Not many people can say they have participated in burning out the underbrush of a forest,” Love said. “Also, if there are any wildfires occurring in our area, we will get to help extinguish them, which sounds pretty appealing.”

Both students involved with Relevant and the RE495 class agreed, the idea of doing something out of the ordinary for break wasn’t something to pass up.

For more information about upcoming service or community outreach projects through Relevant, email Heino at [email protected] or call (906) 362-4669.