Students Break for Spring Service Projects
Alternative Activities Offer UT Dallas Participants a Chance to Give Back
Mar. 11, 2010
“Even though I’m one person, I hope to make a big difference.”
— Abby Johnson, Alternative Spring Break site leader
Instead of hitting beaches and bar hopping, students like Johnson are spending spring break participating in service projects through the University’s Office of Student Volunteerism. Their trips are planned for March 14-20.
Home renovation programs have included trips to New Orleans, where students aided victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program encourages students to apply what they learn in the classroom toward a volunteer experience. This year, 11 teams of more than 100 participants — a mix of students and faculty or staff advisers — are involved.
This year’s “Go Alternative” theme emphasized such issues as poverty, homelessness and sustainability, said Monalisa Amidar, assistant director of student life programs in the Office of Student Volunteerism.
The trips were designed to address those issues.
“We wanted to challenge our students to go outside their comfort levels and explore something new while being of service to others,” Amidar said. “The trips we offered this year were a direct response to what our students had been asking for: to travel farther, have a chance to impact more communities and tackle more social issues.”
“I’m very impressed at how hard they’ve worked in preparing for their trips, and that they’re reaching out to so many communities that need help,” she said.
The Student Volunteerism staff and this year’s ASB participants worked closely with agency partners to plan the trips. Participants studied their issues, partner agencies and the sites they would be visiting.
Individual teams began holding fundraisers in the fall, and the Office of Student Volunteerism hosted its own events to help raise money for the trips. Activities included the “Buy A House for the Homeless” drive, a gaming tournament, bingo, a book drive, Valentine’s Day carnation sales and a pancake breakfast.
The environmental conservation team secured a $250 grant to aid its cause.
The Office of Student Volunteerism works closely with agency partners to plan the trips.
The groups held weekly meetings to discuss trip logistics, related readings and topics that related to their trips’ focus. Team members also performed at least one service project related to their issues before departing for their trips.
“There’s a whole lot more involved than simply signing up and going on a trip. Hence the reason we call it ‘alternative’ spring break,” Amidar said. “Our ASB participants are true examples that Comets do care.”
All trips are filled for this year, but any UT Dallas student can participate in ASB. Students identify trips they want to attend and register online. A non-refundable deposit is due at time of registration, and fees cover transportation, lodging and food. Student cost varies based on location and fundraising efforts.
“The past two years I’ve gone to New Orleans to help build homes following the devastation from hurricane Katrina,” said Josh Mello. “The chance you have to grow in friendship with your team members, work together in community service and explore places you’ve never been forges memories you will not forget.”
One team of students will help care for animals at a rescue facility.
Alternative Spring Break teams and their service destinations for this year include the following:
Drug Rehabilitation (Denver) — In partnership with The Denver Rescue Mission, students will help prepare for spring planting, work in a greenhouse and care for calves and small animals.
HIV/AIDS Outreach (Dallas) — Projects include facility repairs, renovations and working in the food pantry. This program has been coordinated in partnership with AIDS Services of Dallas.
Education (New York City) — Participants will partner with Junior Achievement of New York in hands-on activities that teach workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship to K-12 students.
Homelessness (Washington, D.C.) — Volunteers will team up with the National Coalition for the Homeless to help low-income families.
Hurricane Relief, (New Orleans) — Students will partner with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity and help build, renovate and repair houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Social Services (Wichita, Kan.) — In partnership with Sisters of St. Joseph Dear Neighbor Ministries, students will assist families in the Wichita area who have been victims of domestic violence.
Global Poverty (Perryville, Ark.) — In partnership with Heifer International, participants will help facilitate educational programs and assist with farm operations, including gardening, composting, working with livestock and helping with general farm chores.
Animal Rescue (Seguin, Texas) — In partnership with Southern Animal Rescue Association, participants will help feed animals, groom and bathe dogs, repair fences, paint and clean the facility and take pets on visits to area nursing homes.
Sustainability (Elm Mott, Texas) — In partnership with World Hunger Relief, students will help with farming, fieldwork, livestock and basic repairs and maintenance.