I don’t usually write about college students. They’re not really kids anymore, after all, but rather transitioning adults.
It’s always struck me what a hard age it is, however, when I’m teaching college students and from what I remember from my own early 20s.
That’s why I’m impressed with a small group of local college students, and one recent graduate, who are journeying 10,000 miles in 10 weeks across the United States this summer with the simple purpose of serving their fellow Americans.
The Bus Project is the brainchild of Rob Jones, who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill this spring, and Will Henly, a student at Alamance Community College. Both traveled to Hawaii last summer and worked with local communities. They wanted to do it again this summer and founded The Bus Project.
Christine Bang, one of my former students at UNC, heard about it through Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity at UNC, and decided she wanted in, even though her parents weren’t fully on board.
There was some funding, but the logistics weren’t fully planned. Where would they stay each night? What projects would they would embrace?
That uncertainty has been both a blessing and a challenge.
They left Chapel Hill on May 26, headed to Greenville (where they picked up Jones’ brother), then Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, Atlanta and New Orleans.
In Memphis, they helped a man in need of food and then went to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital to donate both blood and platelets. Later, they raked and shoveled mulch at a community center, which formerly was a railroad yard. They also organized a clothes closetand helped families figure out the paperwork needed to qualify for food stamps.
Bang, a rising junior, admits it’s exhausting at times. She could have gotten a paid internship this summer, but this was important to her.
“I think my definition of success isn’t really that everything goes perfectly, but rather we’re just accomplishing our goal of wanting to help others,” Bang said. “I think, at the end of the day, the reason I decided to do this was because I knew that I would be able to help people.”
They’re learning that planning makes for a better journey. At the very beginning, they were calling the day they arrived to find service projects and places to stay at night. They’ve spent a few nights in the bus.
While it hasn’t been bad, Bang acknowledges they’re learning the fine balance of taking things day by day while still looking ahead.
“Right now I’m a little worried, because nothing is completely set in stone for tonight,” she said.
Service projects aren’t as hard to find as a place to stay, she said.
“I think that’s what we’ve learned this first week, is making sure we can plan ahead so everything else runs smoothly,” she said.
On the day I talked with her in New Orleans, the trip’s 12th day, she’d just had the best service day of the trip so far.
“We worked with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans,” she said. “A couple of people we met today told us there about how some places just haven’t been touched since Hurricane Katrina. It used to be someone’s home. We tore down a shed that was water-damaged, termite-damaged … so that people could come in and build over it.”
When we talked, there was exhilaration coupled with exhaustion. But Bang was optimistic about working out the kinks of their trip.
“I like to think we take our problems each day at a time,” she said. “We’re going to overwhelm ourselves if we just think about all the problems ahead of us, all the things we haven’t figured out yet.”
That’s a lesson that takes lots of practice –– not to borrow trouble, but to take each day as it comes and still be prepared.
It’s just one of those lessons worth learning on their way to becoming adults.
Learn more at thebusproject.org and follow the bus at Facebook.com/thebus2015.