The first week of classes is officially complete, but many Texas A&M University students are still buzzing with excitement from volunteering during winter break.
More than 100 members of Aggies for Christ — the A&M Church of Christ’s college ministry — joined in the decades-long tradition of serving in children’s homes for a week before the start of the spring semester. From painting to building fences to cheering kids on at basketball games and everything in between, students sometimes save the institutions they volunteer for thousands of dollars in labor.
The week of service — simply called “Weeklongs” by participants — began in the organization’s early days, College Life Minister and Director of Aggies for Christ Brian Miller said.
As the story goes, the first Weeklong was the accidental result of a group bus breaking down during a trip in 1972.
The students ended up spending a week at a children’s home in Arkansas, and the consistent service trips to homes began soon after.
“It’s just a service thing,” Miller said. “I think one of the good things is that it provides a respite to the people who are there full time. … Sometimes after Christmas it can be sort of a downer, but you have this infusion of energy with a bunch of students coming.”
This year, students served in children’s homes across the state and in Oklahoma. Each year, the 100 Aggies split into groups that serve at approximately eight children’s homes. Each group has two leaders — typically upperclassmen — who have served at a home before.
A&M seniors and trip leaders Micah Ramos and Faith Heitz completed their fourth and final Weeklong at High Plains Children’s Home in Amarillo this winter break. They were two of 14 students at the home, while other trip leaders volunteered at locations with about 20 of their peers.
“Something we try to emphasize, too, before we go is don’t feel like you need to go in here and fix anybody,” Heitz said. “Just go and be a friend. Let them know you care.”
The trips are primarily focused on service, Miller said, but since all the homes the volunteers visit have Christian roots, students often do what they can to share their faith with the kids they serve.
“One of the good things is to have younger kids experience college students who are cool, fun and who get out and play, but who are also Christians as well,” Miller said. “I think it’s an overall good example.”
Ramos and Heitz said the week at Highpoints typically ends with the students performing skits — some funny and some faith-based — for the children before one of the volunteers delivers a Christian-based message with life lessons on topics such as patience or worry.
At Highpoints, Ramos and Heitz said few children stay for more than a year, but they have made connections with a handful who they’ve seen growing up since they started volunteering their freshman years.
“You’re seeing the good that comes out of having stable house parents who love you and love Jesus and how that can really impact kids’ lives over time,” Ramos said.
Miller said he hopes to see more students get involved in future years so volunteers can assist additional children’s homes.
For more information, visit aggiesforchrist.org.