Oct 092007
Authors: Erik Myers

While many students spent spring break 2007 on beaches and ski slopes, Jessica Neel was spending her nights at a homeless shelter in New York. This was her Alternative Spring Break trip.

“It was really amazing,” said Neel, a sophomore psychology and human development majors. “A lot of times people don’t understand that anybody can be homeless, it just broke down a lot of stereotypes.”

A year later, Neel is ready for another type of experience, and she was one among 50 students who met in the top floor of the Lory Student Center last night to discuss Alternative Spring Break, offered by Student Leadership Involvement and Community Engagement (SLiCE).

As described by its application sheet, Alternative Spring Break is an experience designed to immerse students into different cultures and communities around the world, where students receive first-hand education in exchange for volunteer service.

Students enrolled in the program can choose one of ten spots to spend their week, including Panama, Mexico, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Washington D.C. and New York City. Each spot had its own type of purpose, from spreading HIV/AIDS awareness to working to create sustainable enviornments.

Ana Silvia Avendano, a junior international studies major, is a site leader for the trip to Mexico, which will take place in the city of Juarez. Students involved with the trip will be spending time observing issues of gender and of the U.S.-Mexican border. Avendano said the trip would likely consist of a variety of service work.

“We will be building homes, going on awareness walks, and talking with families,” Avendano said. “Even talking with families can give them emotional support.”

There are a few snags students might find in seeking Alternative Spring Break. The program can be costly; prices for the week range from $675-1600.

Jen Johnson, assistant director with SLiCE, said that there were ways around financial issues.

“People, a lot of times, want to go on a trip but they really cant afford it,” Johnson said. “I know all the different site leader teams are really committed to helping you fundraise if finances are an issue for you, so just know we have resources available.”

Fundraising methods Johnson mentioned included Bake Sales, working at Athletic Events, and running silent auctions. Johnson also mentioned that, due to popularity, Alternative Spring Break had become something of a competitive ordeal, and encouraged students to take their time when filling out their applications.

Ian Krammer, a sophomore psychology major, was among those seeking their first alternative break trip. Krammer said the meeting had invigorated his interest, and is considering Florida or Tennessee for his break.

“I kind of wanted a piece of mind, help some people out, do something cool for spring break,” Krammer said. “I’m definitely doing it.”

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