EUCHA – Students from Chicago, Illinois on spring break decided to come to Eucha and help build a community center instead of lying on the beach with friends.

Nine students traveled to northeastern Oklahoma as part of an alternative spring break program. They volunteered their time as part of a special program that several United States universities participate in every spring.

The students are in Green Country with the assistance of the Cherokee Nation, which works cooperatively with universities to determine what community projects are underway and in need of assistance from students who choose to do community service during their spring breaks.

According to Cherokee Nation Volunteer Field Specialist Warren Hawk, there have been eight groups of students in this part of the state this summer working on projects funded through the Cherokee Nation including the one at Eucha.

“The schools call us and we look around for projects. We then set it up for the kids to come and we find them housing,” said Hawk. “The kids pay the Alternative Spring Break Program which pays for their food, fuel and lodging, so actually, the kids are paying to come and help us. We try to cut expenses down as much as we can, because we appreciate their being here to help with these projects. The program allows students to experience the local culture and be a part of the community where they’re working.”

The Community Center in Eucha is being funded as part of a Cherokee Nation Self-Help Program grant in the amount of $85,000.

“The Nation buys the materials and we provide the labor,” said Cullus Buck, President of the Eucha Indian Organization and Eucha volunteer firefighter.

The students, Anand Sandesara, Tadas Stonkus, Oisin Kenny, Parth Nanavati, Priya Kalapurayil, Susan Kang, Kaoru Hattori, Julie Cain and Tracy Mariano were treated to one of Eucha’s most popular sporting events on Tuesday night: they went gigging.

Anand’s gigging experience gets chuckles from the others when he’s reminded of the one that got away. According to his fellow fishermen (women) he saw what he thought was a fish, only to find that he had  gigged a beaver. Anand is quick to add that he didn’t “technically” gig him, he only poked him a little.

The group was treated to Indian Tacos at the Steely Church in Kenwood where they joined a group of students from Indiana who are working in the Kenwood area.

On Friday the Illinois students will be treated to a hog fry at the Eucha Fire Department where it is hoped that the walls will be going up on the new community center.