Students Engage in Service During Winter Term Break
on the 2004 Habitat For Humanity Collegiate
Challenge work in a cold rain to finish the foundation
for a home in Charleston, S.C.
Forget laying on a sunny beach or chillin' at home with friends during Alma College's Winter Term break. More Alma students are using the time off to engage in service projects.
These days many Alma students prefer to spend their break week providing national service rather than relaxing or partying in warm climates. And the project takes preference over the temperature.
Since Alma students organized one alternative break trip three years ago, the popularity of community service has caused Alma College to create more project-oriented trips. This year, five teams of students and staff are driving and flying to five states to build and repair homes, feed the hungry and the sick, and teach elementary students.
The tradition of student-organized and student-lead trips began with the first alternative break in 2003 when then-seniors Susan Kattula and LeAnn Vilmann took a group of students to Boca Raton, Fla., to work with a local Habitat For Humanity chapter.
The first trip had a waiting list of student volunteers; despite two trips the next year, the list grew longer; and with more trips this year, there is still a waiting list.
Students coming to college with volunteerism ingrained and the subsidized costs of Alma trips could be factors in the growing popularity of alternative breaks, according to Sallie Scheide, Alma's Discovering Vocation assistant director.
"The national phenomenon of college students devoting their break to volunteer service has been growing in popularity. We are able to offer a variety of types of service at relatively low participation fees. The subsidy of the program by Discovering Vocation is keeping these experiences affordable. At this point, no fund raising by the service teams is necessary."
Discovering Vocation: The Lily Project at Alma College pays the majority of the travel fees and provides for one non-work related activity during the break. Housing is usually provided by the host service organizations or Presbyterian churches. Students are the leaders of the trips respoonsible for recruiting volunteers, planning details and organizing pre- and post-trip activities.
"I have been involved in Habitat For Humanity for a few years now and have found it one of the most rewarding experiences in my college career," said Trip Leader Victoria Wilson '05 of Rochester Hills. "Habitat For Humanity is becoming a passion for me, something I find myself spending more and more time working on, so the chance to spend another whole week doing nothing but Habitat For Humanity work was an opportunity I couldn't refuse. As a trip leader, I not only get to participate in a week of service, but I get to help insure that everyone else on the trip has a rewarding and memorable experience as well."
Except for Wilson's Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge to Laredo, Tex., the other trip destinations are to mostly cool climates.
God's Love We Deliver HIV/AIDS food delivery project in New York, N.Y.; the Appalachia Service Project repairing homes in Chavies, Ky.; the Heifer Project International agricultural cooperative in Rutland, Mass.; and the National School and Community Corps elementary education activities in Philadelphia, Pa., are the other trips.
How large the annual program grows is dependent on the number of students willing to volunteer and the staff willing to accompany and supervise the students.
"Interest and support from students and our staff are key factors. If we know of students willing to be leaders and staff that are willing to be advisors, we will have the variety of choices," Scheide says.
Some student athletes excluded from the break trips due to spring training in Florida taking place at the same time, are creating their own volunteer opportunities. Softball player Julie Lee, is organizing an Alternative Summer Break in June for 11 students and one advisor to volunteer at Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, Fla., a camp for children with serious illnesses.
Dr. Brian Stratton, associate professor of philosophy, is taking a Spring Term class in May to follow up on the alternative break trip to Appalachia Service Project for home repair in Central Appalachia to make homes warmer, safer and drier.
Trip Leader Kate Bruder doesn't think about the Massachusetts winter temperature associated with the Heifer Project.
"With this Alternative Break, I am able to go and spend my time working on a worthwhile cause rather than doing something for me."
Posted: Wed, February 23rd, 2005 at 11:00AM