College students spend holiday with special needs residents in Lakeland

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For most college kids, Thanksgiving break means going home to your family or your friend’s family.

But a dozen students from the University of Missouri drove more than 1,100 miles to Lakeland to spend the holiday with people whose names they didn’t even know.

They came to Noah’s Ark, a community for people with special needs, for a week.

“They’re literally full of love and passion," 20-year-old Rachel Schar told FOX 13. “I literally loved making connections with them.”

On Thanksgiving, students and residents cooked dinner side by side.

They sang together. They danced together. They played basketball and hung out.

“I have a lot of love for these people here,” said Zachary Reader, 19 years old. “It’s really a big family.”

The students came through the university’s Alternative Breaks program.

Alternative Breaks gives students a chance to spend their vacation time with people across the country they may never have met otherwise.

Students have worked at Habitat for Humanity sites, with Native Americans, in hospitals, and elsewhere.

Noah’s Ark is just one of the places that teams are visiting this Thanksgiving.

Noah’s Ark opened in July 2016. It is the brainchild of Jack Kosik, a Lakeland resident who worried where his special needs daughter would live after he was gone.