Monday, January 24th, 2011 - 10:20 am

From Soldier Field to a Dominican Republic orphanage

The Next Level

Gaining admission to Soldier Field for the Chicago Bears’ National Football League playoff run this season may have been a tough task for many individuals, but not for a group of Purdue Calumet students, faculty and staff. Then again, the PUC contingent did not journey to the historic, Chicago lakefront sports venue to watch football games; they were there to work.

Actually, they were there raising money for a spring break service trip they plan to make March 12-19 to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. The trip is offered through the organization, Orphanage Outreach.

Engaging service learning
In response to Goal 1 of the Purdue Calumet Strategic Plan – Foster Engaged Learning – nine students, accompanied by three faculty and staff members, are looking forward to turning an unforgettable teaching opportunity into a pricelessly engaging, service learning experience as instructors of English to grade school age youngsters of a Dominican orphanage.

To cover their trip cost and other expenses, each participant must raise approximately $1,450. Consequently, Purdue Calumet contacted DNC Sport Service, which oversees concession operations at Soldier Field. DNC also offers a program designed to help not-for-profit groups raise money.

Braving the elements

So during the final two regular season Bears’ home games, Dec. 12 & 26, and playoff contests of Jan. 16 & 23, the PUC group braved cold, wind, snow and ice to sell refreshments at a concession stand and refill condiments within Soldier Field.

The trip is part of the university’s Spring Break-thru initiative, introduced in 2009.

“Spring Break-thru is designed to give students an alternative option during spring break, in which they can be involved in community service projects that make a lasting impression on them, as well as the people they serve,” Spring Break-thru Director Rick Riddering said.

Students huddling in a Soldier Field concession stand
Huddling in a chilly, Soldier Field concession stand, from left Alexandra Umphries, Carolina Hernandez and Jessica Tabor earn money for their trip to a Dominican Republic orphanage.

‘Unbelievably cold’ but ‘completely worth it’

One student planning to partake of the trip, Jessica Tabor, a political science/criminal justice major from Hammond, said, “It was unbelievably cold working at Soldier Field, especially the game on Dec. 12, when the snow was blowing all over the place. But all this time and effort is completely worth it, because, with this trip, I expect to develop relationships that will follow me a lifetime… But most of all, I want to make an impact on those Dominican kids and develop a deeper understanding of their culture by experiencing their way of life…”

Information about how to make contributions to help defray the trip cost of the Purdue Calumet participants can be obtained by contacting Riddering at or by visiting

The Next Level focuses on ways Purdue Calumet is responding progressively to its 2008-14 Strategic Plan for attaining the next level of excellence.

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