Students Using Spring Break to Help Sandy Victims

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ELYRIA, Ohio -- Forget the suntan lotion and swimsuits.

Local teenagers are giving back this spring break.

Students at Elyria Catholic High School are traveling to New Jersey to help clean up the shoreline still cluttered with debris from Hurricane Sandy, one of the deadliest tropical cyclones in U.S. history.

“I thought it was devastating,” said high school sophomore Nick Wryst. “My heart goes out to the people and the families that are out there.”

The storm slammed the Atlantic Coast in October, affecting more than 24 states and killing hundreds of people.

On Monday, 32 high school students will head to Tom’s River, N.J., said high school assistant principal Michael Wisnor.

“I think it speaks volumes about the types of students we have here at Elyria Catholic and really about young people in general,” he said. “I think that they have an eighth sense about wanting to give back and this is a great opportunity for them to do that.”

Wisnor said trips like this help bring a face to disaster, and he hopes it inspires students to give back.

“For us, when we have a chance to meet the people we’re helping, and to give them some hope, that really to me is what means the most,” he said. “To see our kids first-hand witness the simple things they can do to change other people’s lives.”

High school senior Kasey Bilancini said the trip’s location has been a mystery.

The alternative spring break program selects the school’s destination about a week before departure. She’s anxious to help those affected by Sandy.

“The people who have been hurt or hit by this disaster—you can see how grateful they are for us to help them, and I love working with my classmates and getting to know new people I don’t really talk to on a day-to-day basis at school,” she said.

All of the students pay for their own expenses for the trip.

Yet, money is not an issue.

Bilancini has volunteered for the program for three years and said to help other people in the community is priceless.

“It tells you not to take things for granted, and to be grateful for everything that you have and the weather that we have, just everything,” Bilancini. “The family, our friends, our shelter, the food that we have, I mean everything can just be wiped away without evening knowing that it’s going to happen.“