A Family Tradition of Giving Back

Hilary Bentman, Assistant Director of Communications
Sisters Emily and Sarah Wright hammering on ASB worksite
The Wright sisters - Sarah (standing, left), and Emily (kneeling, right) - work together to help build a house in New Orleans during a Widener Alternative Spring Break trip.

For the Wright siblings, Widener’s Alternative Spring Break is a family affair.

It started with sisters Emily, then a sophomore, and Sarah, then a freshman, applying to spend their coveted spring break building houses in communities around the country.

“Comparing this to any other spring break opportunity, it was an easy decision for me,” said Sarah ’18 ‘20, who is currently completing her doctoral degree in physical therapy. “You still get to travel and have fun. But you also get to go into a community, learn about the culture and the needs they have, and give a family a home.”

Both Sarah and Emily, a 2017 Widener alumna, loved the ASB experience so much that the following spring break they served as site leaders on the same trip to New Orleans. In total, the sisters each went on three ASB trips during their time at Widener.

But the Wright family wasn’t finished giving back.

Patrick Wright wearing a hard hat on an Alternative Spring Break worksite
Patrick Wright '21, the youngest sibling, is carrying on the ASB family tradition.

Enter Patrick ’21, the youngest Wright sibling, who not only followed his sisters to Widener, but has carried on the ASB family tradition.

“Both (Emily and Sarah) had a great experience, the work they were doing, how they got to meet the families (they were serving). I wanted to have the same experience they had,” said Patrick, a marketing major who is spending this spring break in Amarillo, Texas, serving as a site leader on his third ASB trip.

Patrick is one of 60 Widener students taking part in five ASB trips this year. Besides Amarillo, the trips will take students and 10 staff and faculty members to Santa Fe, New Mexico; Birmingham, Alabama; Punta Gorda, Florida; and Franklin, Tennessee. 

Widener has been participating in the national ASB program for more than two decades, partnering with Habitat for Humanity to serve underdeveloped or low-income areas, or places affected by natural disaster. Participants frequently help build houses or volunteer in Habitat’s ReStore facilities.

Much like their decisions to attend Widener, the Wrights say they were inspired and encouraged to take part in ASB by their siblings, but each made the decision on his or her own. The siblings say they were raised on the importance of giving back to the community. 

In fact, hearing about the ASB program was “one of the first things that drew me to Widener,” said Emily, who earned a degree in accounting

Patrick, Emily, and Sarah Wright at Emily's graduation
Patrick, Emily, and Sarah Wright at Emily's graduation from Widener in 2017.

All three Wright siblings say that being part of ASB has or is preparing them for their careers. All have served in leadership positions, helping to plan and run trips, which has taught them about group dynamics. 

Emily uses the planning and relationship-building skills learned on ASB in her work in corporate tax. Driven to keep giving back, she even started an annual volunteer day for her co-workers.

Likewise, Sarah, who was part of Widener’s 3+3 pre-physical therapy pathway and earned her undergraduate degree in psychology, says the skills she has learned on ASB, including team work, communication, and conflict resolution, translate into her work as a physical therapist. 

“I work with different disciplines – speech, occupational therapy. Understanding people’s personalities and perspectives, it carries into everyday life and career,” said Sarah.

And while Patrick is only a junior, he has already realized how ASB has influenced his personal and professional development. As vice president of the organization, he has honed public speaking skills and learned how to lead a group.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Alternative Spring Break. I wouldn’t be looked upon as a leader,” said Patrick. “It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had here.”

Civic Engagement at Widener

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