Students Spread Out for Alternative Spring Break

Posted: March 11, 2005 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. Some are excited about traveling to exotic places, relaxing, and having a good time. For others, spring break is a time to work hard and make a difference in the lives of others. This year, about 40 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 15 years, students have organized, led, and participated in trips across the United States as part of the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. This year, the trips range from Boston and New York to Georgia and Cleveland.

“We are really excited about this year’s programs,” says Heather Hare, assistant director of the Center for Service and Leadership. “We are returning to two places, and it’s nice to see continuity in the program. Some of the students who participated last year are returning to lead this year. The students who come back from the trips usually engage locally in service projects.”

Sapna Khatri, a communication major, and Erica Burbano, an integrative studies major, will be leading 10 students on this year’s trip to New York City to work with Lifebeat and Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Alex Davis, an integrative studies major, is leading the Cleveland Habitat for Humanity trip, where students can experience life in the city while working to make a difference. Another Habitat for Humanities trip is heading to Greene County, Ga., led by Leona Ebbay, a government and international politics major, and Rachel Muth, an integrative studies major. Whitney Graves, an integrative studies major, and Dale Van Wagner, a government and international politics major, are leading a trip to Boston, Mass., to deal with homelessness issues in the city.

While the cost of transportation to and from the site and housing on site is relatively inexpensive—the most costly is $255—students begin fund raising 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.

The program “bridges the relationship between social issues and self-discovery through education and purposeful action,” according to its mission statement. “ASB encourages teams of college students to engage in service with communities facing complex social issues such as discrimination, inadequate housing, hunger and poverty. By providing needed services, team members learn from the people and organizations they encounter, and gain a better understanding of the world.”

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