BEAVERTON — Spirituality and social justice. Simplicity and community. Those values are at the heart of Spring Break Spokane, an annual service-immersion trip for Valley Catholic High School students.

The seed for the event was planted by Valley Catholic religion teacher Luke Waitrovich. As a freshman at Gonzaga, Waitrovich established and led a service trip for his fellow students. “The trip helped students know and serve Spokane as a home, not just the site of their college,” said Waitrovich. When he joined Valley Catholic as a religion teacher, Waitrovich shared his memories.

Today, instead of viewing spring break as a break from classes, nine to 10 Valley Catholic students join four faculty members on visits to Spokane’s Union Gospel Mission, Shalom Ministries and Catholic Charities. They help with gardening and arrange the food pantry for Campus Kitchens, which serves the greater Spokane community. They do yard work for L’Arche Spokane, which provides a home for men and women with intellectual disabilities. “This trip is an excellent opportunity for our students to give back and to learn about the significance of service,” said Bob Weber, Valley Catholic School president.

Ermina Lee, a senior who took part in 2014, said, “Many people are afraid of the homeless. By going to Shalom Ministries and to the soup kitchens at Union Gospel Mission, I realized that the homeless are like anyone else. They are people with hopes and dreams — just like me.”

Emily Gfroerer, another senior, said, “We worked alongside people with special needs who suffered from Down syndrome, physical disabilities, and other mental issues that made it impossible for them to live life as I know it. I was so impressed by how genuinely loving and accepting they were to everyone.” Gfroerer added, “It challenged me to push myself outside my comfort zone and find the joy in serving others who are less fortunate than I am. It was truly a life changing experience.”