Students Provide Volunteer Service in Alternative Spring Break Activities

While most Eastern Kentucky University students enjoyed a restful break from classes during Spring Break March 5-9, some students spent their time volunteering through EKU’s Alternative Spring Break Program in various locales from New York City to New Orleans, from Myrtle Beach, S.C. to Kansas City, Kan.

An alternative spring break trip is a trip during which a group of college students, usually 10-12, engage in volunteer service for a week as a counter to "traditional" spring break trips. Each trip has a focus on a particular social issue; this year’s topics included HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, affordable housing, disaster relief and recovery, and ending domestic violence.

Students learn about the social issues in conjunction with volunteering with local nonprofit organizations and experience different cultural, environmental and socioeconomic backgrounds while meeting identified communities’ needs through service.

“This is EKU’s fifth year running alternative spring breaks,” said Brian Perry, assistant director of Student Life. “Alternative Break trips are an exciting opportunity for students to learn about important social issues through a mix of service and education activities. They also provide the chance to travel and explore new areas of the country to students who might not otherwise be able to afford to do so.”

Twelve students who traveled to Myrtle Beach participated in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, Habitat’s national alternative break program sponsored by State Farm Insurance engaging young people ages 5-25.

“This is EKU’s fourth time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity during spring break to help build affordable housing,” Perry said. We are delighted to provide students this opportunity to serve the community and help another family reach their goal of home ownership.”

Students had the “classic” Habitat experience of working with a new homeowner to build their house. For the past 23 years, more than 194,000 students have spent their school breaks volunteering across the country through this Habitat for Humanity program. 

"Students continue to view volunteering with Habitat for Humanity as an opportunity to make a difference," said Cody Logsdon, manager of youth volunteer engagement at Habitat for Humanity. “They are creating legacies in the communities they serve.”

For many participants this was their first Habitat build as well as their first alternative break experience. Stacey Neat, a freshman from Shelbyville, said: “Alternative spring break was so much more than I was expecting. Not only did I meet, work with, and build friendships with some amazing people, I also really contributed to making someone’s life better. Building a Habitat house is definitely hard work, but it was beyond rewarding. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.”

Dr. Mike Reagle, associate vice president for Student Affairs, who accompanied the group as their faculty/staff learning partner, said he has overseen this program for a number of years “but this was my first ‘hands-on’ experience to actually participate, and it was great. Everyone should have the opportunity to do this, and we are going to continue to look at ways to expand this program in the future.”

Alternative spring breaks challenge students to critically think about and react to problems faced by members of the communities they visit, Perry said. Immersion in diverse environments enables participants to experience, discuss, and understand social issues in a significant way.

Miles Owen, the student leader for the New York trip, said Alternative Spring Break “is a truly transformative experience. The people you meet and the stories you hear will change the way you see the world.”

          

Published on March 19, 2012