Alternative Spring Break Provides Leadership Opportunities

Posted: March 8, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Megan McDonnell

Each year, George Mason students eagerly await spring break, a time to work hard and make a difference in the lives of others. That doesn’t sound like the spring break you expected? This year, 37 students are doing just that, volunteering their spring break to help others in service-oriented projects through Mason’s Center for Service and Leadership.

For the past 14 years, students have organized, led, and participated in trips across the United States. This year, the trips are scattered down the East Coast from New York to Georgia. Seniors Lori Marchessault and Erin Ogilvie will ead12 students to New York City to interact with HIV/AIDS patients and learn about the complex social issues surrounding the disease. Junior Elizabeth Turner, along with five other students, will travel to Jersey Shore, N.J., to work with the Surf Rider Foundation to clean up the beach and restore its natural beauty.

In Pickens County, S.C., senior Sarah Godlewski, sophomore Mallory Sumner, and 10 Mason students will build homes and renovate others with Habitat for Humanity. In Boston, 10 students, led by junior Whitney Graves and senior Anh Giang, will explore inner-city issues by helping to restore housing, working with inner-city youth, and providing food service for the homeless. A community development program in Atlanta will feature community outreach programs and after-school youth involvement.

“What is so great about [alternative spring break] is that it’s affordable for students and there are a lot of scholarships available,” says Godlewski, Student Government president. “You are going with a group of students to make a difference in the community, so you are out there because you want to, and you are going to make a positive impact.”

While the trips are relatively inexpensive–up to $255 for transportation to and from the site and housing while there–students begin fundraising months in advance to cover the cost of local transportation and food.

Participants attend a mandatory session to meet the other students and share their expectations and thoughts before leaving. Students are eligible to receive course credit for their service work during the week, although most go simply for the experience and the chance to serve the community. Students who do choose credit must work a minimum of 40 hours, keep a journal of their time and thoughts, and complete a final project.

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