Amanda and a team of Simmons students traveled to Georgia with Habitat for Humanity!
What's your major at Simmons?
I'm majoring in data science and sociology and minoring in social work.
What made you choose Simmons?
The moment I stepped on the Simmons campus I knew this would be my home for the next four years. It's not a feeling I can really explain, but I know a lot of my friends have had similar experiences. We used to call it 'Simmonsness' — a sense of home even though you just got here.
Tell us about your experience with community service.
Community service has been a part of my Simmons career since first year orientation when I got involved with Jumpstart. As a first generation college student, Simmons has given me so many opportunities. Taking that privilege and using it towards righting some serious wrongs is my way of reciprocating. I'm immensely fortunate to be in the position I'm in today.
I've been involved in Alternative Spring Break (ASB) all four years at Simmons, and I've been a co-leader these past two years. ASB has been my rock — something constant to look forward to and learn from. I'm always amazed at how we carry our community from Simmons to wherever we travel. The level of respect our team members show toward each other and the people who welcome us into their churches, workplaces and homes makes me so proud to say I'm a Simmons student.
Where did Alternative Spring Break go this year?
We went to Valdosta, GA to work with Valdosta-Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity. Along with a group from Georgetown University, we built the frame of an entire house from the ground up. There were plenty of hammered thumbs and sunburns, but the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day made every sore muscle worth it. We had the privilege of meeting multiple Habitat homeowners, including the family who would be living in the house we were building.
As a team we had difficult conversations on the trip about our roles, white saviorism, and balancing our own personal beliefs with those we are working with. Most of these conversations were sparked by students who were on ASB for the first time. The strength and humility of my peers never ceases to astound me. I'm just so grateful to have been a part of it.
What are some lessons you learned from Alternative Spring Break?
ASB has taught me is humbling resilience. ASB has made me question my own strength — mental and physical —and my teams have helped me push through those moments and become even stronger. I know who I am, what is important to me and what will give me a sense of peace and accomplishment at the end of the day.
What surprised you most about Alternative Spring Break?
I think people have misconceptions of what it means to be a Habitat homeowner. It's not a free house. The homeowners pay a monthly mortgage and utilities. They put in sweat equity hours during construction. Habitat gives people who are systematically oppressed a real chance to own a home. It gives families and children consistency and stability.
It's not perfect — a Habitat employee once told me that the work they do is like pouring a bucket of water on a burning building. ASB is just a drop in that bucket, but it's a start. I hope in coming years to see an expansion of our ASB programs at Simmons and more diversity in our teams to better reflect Simmons and the communities we serve.
How can students get involved with Alternative Spring Break?
Get involved through the Scott/Ross Center!
What's your Simmons moment?
I came to Simmons as a shy first year. I found my voice on ASB and realized my leadership potential — these experiences have made me who I am today.
My Simmons moment was watching others have that same experience. Particularly one of my co-leaders this year. Being a part of someone else's leadership journey and personal growth, especially someone you really care about, is transformative. Seeing our little community come together to help total strangers gives me hope.
Every day I spend with these leaders is a lesson in humility. I'm immensely fortunate.
Main photo: Abby Willis and Amanda Leone
Second photo: Hannah Hast and Amande Leone
Third photo: Amanda Leone, Alex Itasaka and Hannah Hast