Alternative Spring Breaks

Spring Break may seem unreasonably far away, but I guarantee you, March 25th will sneak up on us sooner than you can imagine.

I’d bet you are already planning how you will spend those precious couple of days. Many students are planning to escape the Southern Tier’s endless barrage of dreary grey weather for the sunny beaches (and booze) of Miami, Palm Beach and Cabo.

While the allure of such vacations is obvious to the college crowd, recently, more and more students are seeking a different experience…one that combines both excitement of travel and the fulfillment gained by helping others.

A great alternative to the typical Spring Break affair is…well, “Alternative Spring Break”.

Alternative Spring Breaks that focus on volunteerism and community building are fun, hands on, and offer a unique educational experience outside of the classroom.

You may be thinking that the last thing you want during your Spring Break is more “education”, but education of this kind will provide a dose of inspiration of motivation that will help you push through the last couple weeks of classes once you get back.

Jacqui Fritsch, a Graduate Assistant in the CCE, participated in 4 Alternative Spring Breaks during her time as an Undergraduate at St. Joseph’s University.

According to her, any regrets over sacrificing your Spring Break will be instantly erased once you and your group of fellow volunteers start making a positive impact in the community you are serving.

“There is so much to learn, so much to do,” said Fritsch, “It doesn’t matter how different you are, you are learning, helping, growing the entire time. It’s so exciting, and never boring!”

Alterative Break can take you to part of the United States (or the World) that you have not visited before, and experience cultures and people you never though you would encounter.  

For example, Fritsch volunteered for 10 days in Tohatchi, New Mexico, on a Native American reservation - a part of the country she had never imagined getting the opportunity to explore.

(Tohatchi at Sunset)

During her experience, she interacted with the Native Tohatchi culture who emphasized the restorative power of nature and the community bonds established through their shared Catholic faith.  Every morning began with an afternoon service, followed by a volunteer assignment, such as digging irrigation canals, stocking the community food pantry, working on improving the community centers interior and exterior, and driving to the very outskirts the reservation to provide aid to those who were either too elderly to travel or did not own a car.

Alternative Spring Breakers can also expect to confront these very real (and often intense) social, political and economic problems faced by the populations being served.

“My first break, I travelled to Pulaski Virginia, to help restore an abused and battered women’s shelter. There we worked with the founder of the community shelter, a woman who provided meals, counseling and temporary living accommodations for victims and their families. I was very impressed by her.”

As a testament to how much she enjoyed her experienced, Fritsch decided to return to New Mexico the next year as a Volunteer Leader, overseeing some 12 St. Josephs students.

“The experience makes you push yourself and learn in a different way. It’s life changing. While you might not get to spend time with your friends at home on break, you get to make new friends on Alternative Spring Break.”

Use these links to start researching some potential Alternative Spring Breaks you may want participate in come March: http://www2.binghamton.edu/cce/alternativespringbreak.html

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