Scores of regional college students are headed south for spring break, but their antics probably won’t wind up on any sensational videos.
Girls Gone Kind? Boys Gone Charitable?
Instead of hitting beaches and beer bongs next week, 63 Idaho students will clear trees and repair homes in Waveland, Miss., which is still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina.
Meanwhile, about 110 Washington State University students are headed to New Orleans, as part of an effort coordinated by Habitat for Humanity and the Campus Crusade for Christ. Students from Gonzaga and Whitworth will also be volunteering in Mississippi over spring break.
They’re among thousands of college students nationwide participating in a small but growing tradition – the alternative spring break, which focuses on volunteerism. A lot of this year’s effort has focused on the hurricane cleanup.
“Seeing the people and the conditions down there really made me want to help and give back,” said Jennifer Mousseau, a 20-year-old economics and international studies major at UI. “I feel like this is definitely the place where my time will be best spent.”
UI’s alternative spring break program has sent students to do other charitable work in years past, spreading them among several projects. But this year, UI officials decided to combine all the students on one project, given the level of need in the Gulf Coast.
“This year, with the 63 students, five advisers and one alumnus, is one of the biggest groups we’ve ever had,” said Steve Janowiak, director of student activities and leadership programs.
The university subsidizes most of the cost of the trip. Once students arrive in Waveland, they will be broken into groups to remove trees, clean up debris, demolish some buildings and repair others.
A group of 14 Whitworth students is headed south, though not as part of a formal school program. Some are returning after an earlier trip during the school’s January term program, which was overseen by the college.
Gonzaga has a longtime alternative spring break program called Mission: Possible. This year, 82 students are going all around the country to do charitable work, including a couple of sites in Mississippi.
WSU said its group of 110 students is the largest group of students participating in the Campus Crusade for Christ relief efforts next week.
“It was a community service activity that I really felt called to help out with,” said Jesse Radoslovich, a WSU architecture student, in a news release. “There is so much damage down there still. They obviously need manpower.”
Julia Brumer, volunteer programs coordinator at UI, is a recent Idaho graduate who participated in alternative spring break when she was in school. She said it was important to helping her connect with other students, step outside campus life and see issues in the real world and reflect on them.
Colin Seeley, a 24-year-old food science major at UI, said he has typically gone home to California for spring break but heard about the volunteer program from a friend.
“It just sounded really appealing – a good opportunity to travel and volunteer my time,” he said.