Alternative Spring Break Offers Service Opportunity

Posted: March 10, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

While most college students will be heading to warm beaches or sunny vacation sites this week, students from the Center for Service and Leadership (CSL) will spend their spring break working on service-oriented projects. Through the Alternative Spring Break program, 35 students are traveling this week to different parts of the country to participate in various community organizations, immersing themselves in communities and complex social issues that are very different from their own.

“It’s a tremendous learning experience because students are taken out of their own comfort zones,” says Kia Anderson, office manager and project coordinator for CSL. “Many students have never experienced communities where many of the people are poor or sick. It can be a very emotional and rewarding time.”

Undergraduate students coordinate the trips–finding the site, contacting a community agency and establishing housing, transportation and meals. Fundraising begins months in advance and many students are able to pay for their entire trip through these efforts.

This year, students will travel to New York City, West Virginia, Detroit, or New Jersey. Students traveling to New York, led by coordinators Darlene Noble and Dolores Clark, both sophomores, will work with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Inc., interacting with people affected by HIV/AIDS virus in order to develop an understanding of the disease. In West Virginia, seniors Nick Amheiser and DeeAnn Resk will lead the Mason team in working with Habitat for Humanity. Violence prevention and peace promotion will be the focus of the Detroit group, coordinated by senior Rebecca Quinn and junior Edwinna Smith, who will work primarily with Save Our Sons and Daughters. Senior Paul D’Elia will lead students to the New Jersey shore, where they will partner with SurfRider Foundation cleaning beaches, collecting data, and collecting water samples for various environmental organizations.

“The community has really welcomed the project and been more than helpful,” says D’Elia, a history major in the leadership certificate program.

The students will commit approximately 40 hours of service work during their trips and can receive college credit for community research. The week offers students hands-on experience working with social issues and also provides support, learning, and team-building exercises. Team members are encouraged to share their accomplishments and thoughts with all members of the group through a team journal and group project. “We emphasize daily activities as a team,” says Heather Hare, assistant director for CSL. “It really is a concentration on both service and learning.”

For more information about Alternative Spring Break visit the CSL web site.

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