Lee Students Serve and Learn on Winter Break Road Trip 


Mattie Thomas

Lee University’s School of Nursing (SON) sent a group of 24 students and faculty to Colorado for a cross-cultural experience this past December over winter break.

Led by Jacob Fast, SON enrollment and advising specialist and assistant professor, the group spent two weeks traveling over 4,000 miles through 16 states, ranging from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Amarillo, Texas. The group was accompanied by Cesli Vaccaro, adjunct professor at Lee, and Lee digital media alum T. McLauchlin.

While fulfilling the mission of the cross-cultural experience at Lee, Fast had multiple goals for the trip. “A focal point of our time in Colorado was working with the Hispanic populations within the communities we experienced,” said Fast. “We also wanted to focus on disaster management concepts, humanitarian ideals, and health disparities, which was successfully accomplished.”

While in Colorado, the group visited the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention cente r. They heard from Sarah Jackson, founder of Casa de Paz, a nonprofit that has been reuniting families separated by immigration detention for over eight years. “Sarah shared with the students about the conditions within the detention facility, the impact that Casa de Paz has had on those who have encountered immigration detainment, and ways to personally help those in need,” said Fast.

The students were also made aware of the hospitality home, made available for people from out of town visiting those in detention; Casa on Wheels, which provides immediate assistance for those released from ICE; and how to become a pen pal to those inside ICE facilities. Jackson also shared about the potential of starting similar organizations in other locations where the services do not exist.

Though the trip was designed to cater to Disaster and Healthcare Mission Management (DHMM) majors, any student was welcome. In addition to those mentioned above, students on the trip currently study nursing, psychology, health science, and biology.

“This trip meant a lot to me,” said Cristina Moore, a senior psychology major. “My original trip overseas was cancelled due to COVID, and I was so nervous about this trip, but it was amazing to travel and meet new people, especially during a pandemic.”

Pierson Nelson, a junior nursing major, said, “This trip was the opportunity of a lifetime. All the places we got to see in such a short amount of time was truly amazing and something that I will never forget.”

Though many of the university’s cross-cultural trips have been postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, administrators agreed this trip could take place in a safe manner while following necessary precautions.

“We had goals of staying safe, being smart, and having fun, and I believe these goals were met in momentous ways,” said Fast.








PHOTOS: (1) The Lee University group is pictured here in Oklahoma City on their way to Colorado for a cross-cultural experience. (2) Lee student Pierson Nelson stands on top of Quandary Peak during the winter break trip. (3) Sarah Taylor, a senior psychology major, is seen here in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas.


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