SEND Trips Bring Merrimack Community to San Diego, Honduras, South Dakota

More than 40 students participated in the College’s alternative spring break service trip program this March.
Group photo of Merrimack students and faculty posing in front of a cliff ridge in Honduras.
One of this year's SEND trips saw 14 Merrimack students designing a water system for a small Honduran village.

Ask any person who has participated in a Merrimack College SEND trip, they will tell you it is a life-changing experience.

Each year, students, faculty and staff embark on a week-long excursion during spring or winter break to immerse themselves in communities around the world through service-learning opportunities.

The largest trip during March 2024 spring break sent 23 students to San Diego, Calif.

“We chose San Diego because it was a lot different than any SEND trip we’ve ever done,” explained Alexis Byrne ’25, one of three student leaders on the trip. “It was more of a learning experience than community service. We mostly sat in on lectures, met with people and learned what it’s like to be a migrant, specifically in San Diego.”

The most impactful day, according to Byrne and fellow student leaders Rory Perretti ’26 and Jackson Fortune-O’Brien ’25, came when the students visited one of Via International’s migrant assistance stations located directly on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Via has these tents sent up where people can get food, water, blankets and clothing,” Perretti explained. “When we went, they weren’t expecting people to be there but there were.”

Two families from Peru and Jordan, each with small children, were waiting at the tent since early in the morning. The students rushed to feed them, preparing snacks, soup and sandwiches.

“That was, for everyone, the hardest day and the hardest thing we had to do,” said Byrne. “It was a very emotional day, but it was definitely the most impactful. We were able to see what they were going through.”

Harrison Bell ’24 and Antoni Piascik ’24 had similarly impactful experiences on their SEND trip to Honduras. The two mechanical engineering majors, along with 12 other Merrimack students, designed a water system for a small village in the city of Comayagua called La Laguna. Out of the 140 houses in the community, only 96 of them had running water.

“I know for a lot of the students it was their first time leaving the country or doing a trip like this,” said Piascik. “It gave them a lot of meaning and a different perspective in life, and I know they very much appreciated that. They came back with a lot of answers and even more questions.”

Jacob Symmes ’25 and Ally McKenna ’25 led eight students in service work at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“They were still on their winter heating assistance program,” Symmes explained, “so we were cutting and splitting firewood for the families who had wood stoves to stay warm. On the last day, we were delivering and assembling beds for these families.”

Like the other student leaders, Symmes hopes to see more Merrimack students participate in SEND trips next spring break.

“They have trips that focus on all different areas,” he said. “No matter what your major or what your educational focus is, it’s such a life-changing experience to live in other people’s shoes and help out their communities.”

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