- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

More than 30 high school students from Kansas are trading in the sand and surf for gloves and boots as they spend their spring break working at soup kitchens and food banks in the District.

The 34 students, who attend the Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village, Kan., traveled more than 1,000 miles to feed the homeless and tutor youngsters in the District.

“A lot of my friends are going on cruises in the Bahamas and stuff, but I felt this was more productive,” said Lucas Kinser, 18, a senior at Shawnee Mission WestHigh School in Overland Park, Kan.

The high school students came to the District with a youth group from Hillcrest Covenant Church, a congregation with about 1,500 members. Most of the students are freshmen.

Each day, the students are divided into five groups, each of which works at about 10 local humanitarian organizations over the course of the week.The students, who arrived in the District last weekend, are expected to return home Sunday.

Yesterday morning, about 15 students worked at Vision D.C., a food and product distribution bank on Brentwood Road in Northeast.

Working with the poor and homeless in the District “gives our students a chance to see other cultures,” said George Bocox, minister to students at Hillcrest Covenant Church. “Some of these kids are very sheltered and well-off. The biggest thing is that they get their eyes opened.”

At Vision D.C. yesterday morning, the students spent two hours sorting boxes of toothpaste, shoes and bags of clothing onto pallets for distribution to humanitarian organizations throughout the District.

“We have about 700 to 800 young people come in per year to work,” said Azalech Teklemariam, 52, gifts-in-kind administrator with Vision D.C. “They give us a lot of man-hours. It’s really a blessing working with them.”

On Monday, several students tutored youngsters at the Children of Mine Center, an after-school program in Anacostia.

“Anacostia was really amazing,” said Chelsae Komar, 16, a sophomore at Pembroke Hill High School in Kansas City, Mo. “There is just so much more to this city than politics. You come to D.C., and you meet and talk to people and hear their experiences, and you learn a lot from that.”

The D.C. trip cost $600 for each student. Of that amount, the church paid $200 for each student.

The Hillcrest Covenant Church youth group frequently travels to a church in Missouri, where the students work at a soup kitchen.

The church organized this year’s trip to the District through the Center for Student Missions, an urban missions group that assists churches and schools in organizing trips to major cities nationwide.

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