UDaB plans volunteer efforts in five states
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 21:04
While many students are heading to the beach this spring break, those participating in alternative spring break will be heading to different destinations across the country to do community service.
The alternative breaks program UDaB is three years old but has grown from only 20 students its first year to 147 students this year, according to Susan Serra, the UDaB coordinator.
This year UDaB is sending students to five different locations to do volunteer work. Students will be traveling to Mississippi, New Orleans, Washington D.C., North Carolina and New Jersey.
Serra said the program was started three years ago by a student named Nick Feroccio. He independently organized a trip and then came to the Office of Service Learning to get university support for the program.
“The whole thing was bigger than we thought it would be right from the beginning,” Serra said. “We ended up getting over 200 applications for only 70 spots the second year, and, from there, it has just snowballed.”
Serra said she wants to make it easier for more students to participate in the program.
“It is fairly competitive, and we are working on finding ways to expand so there are more opportunities for students because I would say almost everyone who applies is a good candidate,” Serra said.
UDaB uses a rounded approach to select applicants and look for a good mix of students, Serra said.
The goal of the program is to introduce students to active citizenship and helping communities in need, Serra said. The students will not only be doing work but also learning about the community.
Serra said the alternative break is a great opportunity for students to do service and have a different experience from a more traditional spring break. The program is drug and alcohol-free, and Serra said program coordinators have not had an issue with students breaking the rules.
Senior Dhara Amin said she trains the site leaders to teach the students on their trips about a social issue that affects the community the students are helping. Before going on the trip, each site leader needs to attend an educational orientation.
“One of the things we try to do is really build in education so they are not just going to do work, but they are actually meeting people from the community,” Serra said. “I think hearing people’s stories can be sort of life-changing.”
Serra said most students who go on alternative spring break consider the experience to be “transformative” and, often times, people make life-long friendships on their trips.
“Students really bond with each other on the program so I think they create relationships that many of them see as being life-long,” Serra said. “The kind of friendships you develop when you are on a bus for 22 hours, sleeping on the floor and working really hard with other people.”
Serra said she thinks an individual’s experience with UDaB affects his or her future career choices. The program makes people more interested in helping the community, which can be reflected on their resumes.
Community outreach chair for UDaB Jaclyn Fisher said she loved her experience with the program. When she applied for an executive board position as a sophomore two years ago she had never been on a trip but wanted to get involved with the program.
Fisher said she went to a week-long conference in Flagstaff, Ariz. the summer after her sophomore year, where she learned about alternative breaks while also helping the community.
“Half of the day we were in workshops and learned how to create quality break programs at our schools, and the other half of your day you are doing service work,” Fisher said.
This year Fisher is going to the Dominican Republic to do community service through the Honors College’s program, which works closely with UDaB.
Some students will not have to travel very far from campus to participate in the program. Twenty students will be heading to New Jersey to aid in Hurricane Sandy relief, Serra said.
When students were applying in the beginning of October, they thought they were going on a Habitat for Humanity trip, but, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, the group decided to change destinations, Serra said.
“Everyone going on that trip is really excited to be going to do Hurricane Sandy relief,” Amin said. “No one was disappointed about changing the trip’s focus.”
Other trip locations will give similar relief to Hurricane Irene, Isaac and Katrina victims, according to Serra. Another group will head to Washington D.C. to work with underprivileged children under the age of five to educate them in a week-long program.
“UDaB is very focused on education as opposed to just going down and doing what you think is best for the community,” Fisher said. “It is very focused on actually what the community needs.”