Mason Students Choose an ‘Alternative Spring Break’

Posted: March 15, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Nicholas Zinzer

While numerous Mason students have planned their spring breaks around friends and vacation, a group of students will be assisting communities throughout the country as part of an “alternative spring break.”

Sponsored by the Center for Service and Leadership (CSL), alternative spring break will take students to three locations throughout the country for a week-long volunteer project.

Student volunteers will travel to Florida to work with Habitat for Humanity, to New York City to assist HIV/AIDS patients and to New Orleans to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“I really want to feel like I made a difference,” says Emily Crabill, an undeclared major who is leading a group of 12 Mason students on a trip to New Orleans for hurricane relief.

Crabill has been planning the trip to New Orleans since October. “The more research I did, the more I realized how much long-term help they need. They’re struggling down there.”

Heather Hare, assistant director at CSL, will also be joining the trip to New Orleans. “We have a student population that wants to travel with their peers and volunteer,” she says. “It’s our mission to promote community involvement.”

Hare says that in her past experience with alternative spring break, the event has been transformative in changing attitudes about social work. “The number one reason students [get involved] is they want to make a difference.”

Alternative spring break uses service learning to teach students about volunteering. Service learning is “the process of integrating community service and critical thinking exercises into the curriculum to enhance and enrich student learning and development,” according to CSL’s web site. Crabill says she enjoys service learning because “it’s easier to remember personal memories…than [absorbing] information in a book.”

Maria Altonen, a sophomore majoring in administration of justice, is not new to volunteering. She assists with HIV/AIDS patients around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. She is a returning volunteer, having been to New York City last year to help HIV/AIDS patients.

“It really opens our eyes to an issue important to Americans,” says Altonen. She hopes to make a difference with patients, explaining that individuals afflicted with HIV/AIDS do not get many visitors.

For more information on the Center for Service and Leadership, see the web site or call 703-993-2900.

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