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Everyday Evangelists: Brothers serve others on spring break

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

By Mike Dyer

ARCHDIOCESE — Two brothers and University of Cincinnati students used their spring break in March to help others and, in turn, discovered rewarding experiences and an opportunity to put their faith into action. Ben and Mark Schutte, both graduates of area Catholic high schools, volunteered on service projects in rural Kentucky and Peru, respectively.


Ben Schutte
Ben Schutte (Courtesy photo)

“I’ve never had a spring break at the beach,” Ben Schutte said before the trip. “But for me, the time outdoors doing good work with good people is a great spring break. Believe it or not, you don’t have to go to Florida to get some sun. The sun shines in Appalachia, too.”
Ben Schutte, who is finishing up his last quarter as a graphic design major at UC, has traveled to Appalachia twice before. to Owsley County (eastern Kentucky), where he worked on a housing project. This year, he went to Flatgap, which is in western Kentucky, with the University Honors Program. A 2005 graduate of Moeller High School, Schutte spent time repairing/replacing the roof and siding and building a porch and steps for a mother of three and grandmother of four children.
“The experience has been wonderful and unique each time I have gone, as a large part of the experience is building a relationship with the family of the home being worked on,” he said.
He added that he made a special connection with one of the grandchildren during the week, and she was always eager to tell the group about her school day and to lend a hand with some of the work, including carrying a hammer or a handful of nails.
Schutte said the Appalachian program allowed him to meet people from several other colleges across the United States. As a result of his positive experiences, he has decided to participate in the project as a long-term volunteer for a year starting in September.
“I have greatly enjoyed these experiences during my college career as they have served to provide me the chance to meet and help new people and give me a break from the stresses of school and work,” he said.
Schutte first became involved in the Appalachian project his sophomore year as part of completing a winter course with the University Honors Program, which focuses on unique and challenging academic and hands-on experiences that reflect community engagement, global study, leadership, research and the creative arts.
Based on his brother’s experiences, Mark Schutte also developed an interest in the service learning experience. A second-year environmental engineering student, he expects to graduate from the five-year program in 2013. He graduated from St. Xavier High School in 2008.

Mark Schutte
Mark Schutte (Courtesy photo)

Service learning at UC is defined as “a reflective educational experience in which students earn academic credit by participating in meaningful service activities. Service-learning experiences are designed to foster deeper understanding of course content and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.”

The brothers, who are originally from Mason and grew up in St. Susanna Parish, both live in Clifton now. They have followed a UC family tradition. Their oldest brother, Kyle, graduated from UC in 2008 with a degree in accounting and management. Their mother, Kathryn, earned a bachelor’s degree in social work and their father, Lawrence, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Both young men are in the UC Cincinnatus Scholarship program; Mark Schutte earned a full four-year scholarship to pay for tuition, books, room and board and fees.
“Ben and Mark represent the University of Cincinnati’s dedication to scholarship and community engagement on so many levels,” says Jessica King, senior admissions officer for the University Honors Program.
“As design and engineering majors, they have both found ways to push the boundaries of their respective disciplines and academic endeavors to make the most of their UC experience, taking their learning beyond the classroom and serving others in doing so. They represent not only a deeply ingrained familial commitment to service, but also exemplify the ideals we hope to instill in UC graduates. This dedication, partnered with shining personalities, humor and generosity, will carry them far in all of their future endeavors,” says King.

Mark Schutte worked in a southern region of Peru for 10 days on his spring break with Serve Beyond Cincinnati, a UC student organization that strives to build an emerging, civic-minded generation by providing national and international service experiences for students.
The group worked in a community called Huacarpay, which was significantly affected by heavy rainstorms a month before his trip. One of the school buildings was destroyed in the flooding, so the students built an extra school room for the nearby school that had take on the displaced students and was having difficulty accommodating the additional children.
“As a result of the flooding, the community of hundreds of families had only one source of clean water — a tap coming from the mountain springs,” Mark Schutte explained. “We connected this water source to the remaining school’s water tank so that water could be stored and used for cooking and cleaning.”
It was his second visit to Peru, but the young man was still in awe of the simplicity and happiness with which the people live. He said he was amazed to see how universal the Catholic faith is, even in a different hemisphere, and particularly enjoyed attending Mass in Peru.

“I think the most valuable part of any trip like this is in witnessing and living in a lifestyle and culture entirely different from what we know here in the United States,” Mark Schutte said. “What I have learned, however, is that . . . the integral parts of life — love, happiness, family, relationships — are universal. And in these ways, I will always feel connected to many people who, even now, are living separate lives from my own across the world, but will always be with me because of the bonds we have made and share.”

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