What a Break!
USF students fan out across the country to provide service during Alternative Spring Break 2010.
By Barbara Melendez
TAMPA, Fla. (March 4, 2010) – The sites are spread out from Tennessee to New York City, New Orleans to Washington, D.C. and as far away as the Appalachian Mountains. University of South Florida students are fanning out to provide humanitarian service to a variety of community organizations for Alternative Spring Break 2010. The projects range from environmental conservation to HIV/AIDS prevention and community rebuilding. All provide the chance to do something meaningful with the period between March 6 and 13 when most students are seeking rest, relaxation and revelry.
“It’s awe-inspiring to discover so many students willing to step up and contribute their time to such worthy causes,” said Jennifer Espinola, director of the USF Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement. “We’ve come up with playful names to describe each group of service opportunities, but the work is quite serious and very impactful to those communities.”
There’s “Meals on Heels” in New York City, “Cribs Hotlanta Edition” in Atlanta, and “Family Matters” in Memphis, three projects in Washington, D.C. and more to add to the mix:
· “Yummy in My Tummy”: Students will work with Food & Friends whose mission is to foster a community caring for men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-challenging illnesses by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling. Volunteers will work in the kitchen, do yard and garden work and help staff with developing projects like fundraisers.
· “New Kids on the Block”: This project involves working with Kid Power, a civics-based organization that provides academic, artistic, and service-learning opportunities for youth in underserved neighborhoods in the District of Columbia. Kid Power empowers youth to become informed and engaged advocates for change in their own lives and in their communities. Volunteers will work with the Kid Power afterschool program. Prior to the trip, students are helping to prepare a lesson plan (based on a social issue) for the children to be taught during their period of service.
· “Sex in the Capital”: The Metro TeenAIDS community health organization and the groups it works with will be the recipient of volunteer efforts. It is dedicated to supporting young people in the fight against HIV/AIDS. MTA uses education, support and advocacy to help prevent the spread of HIV, promote responsible decision making, and improve the quality of life for young people infected with, or affected by, HIV/AIDS. Volunteers will do street outreach, assemble safer sex kits, and spend time in the organization’s youth center.
· USF students will return to a previous volunteer site in New Orleans to continue post Hurricane Katrina relief during the “Extreme Makeover - St. Bernard Project.” This project helps remove barriers for families that wish to move back into their homes in St. Bernard Parish, a community adjacent to New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward and one of the hardest hit by the devastating hurricane. Volunteers will continue to help with rebuilding and restoration efforts.
· A little further north of Florida, the “Gilligan’s Island - Cumberland Island” project will give students the opportunity to volunteer on Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. They will perform trail restoration and maintenance from places where early natives, explorers and industrialists once lived.
· Closer to home in Everglades National Park, in Homestead, Florida, the “Ace of Glades” project at the scenic Flamingo Bay Park, is where students will be involved in sea turtle habitat restoration, beach clean-ups, and the clearing of culturally and historically significant ground of invasive species.
Another group of students and faculty from the USF Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) program is headed to an area that is home to three of the poorest counties in the country, in Kentucky’s remote Appalachian Mountains to fit hearing aids. The students have raised their own funds for the trip and will donate any excess to provide more services and hearing aids.
After spring break in May, volunteers will travel to Peru to work in two areas. One is an environmental conservation project in the Amazon Rainforest outside of Cusco. The primary work involves reforestation – planting trees, shrubs and orchids, as well as the removal of invasive bamboo species, and they will also conduct wildlife inventories. In the city of Cusco, students will volunteer at a clinic that provides treatment to mentally and physically disabled children and babies, organizing arts and crafts and play activities, assisting with physical therapy and helping the children during meal times and throughout the day.
Alternative Spring Break students paid fees between $200 to $350 to cover travel, lodging and food. When these volunteers return to USF, they will meet to share their stories and talk about their experiences March 29, from 5 -7:30 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center room 2708.
For more information on the alternative spring break trips or about student volunteerism at USF, contact the Center for Leadership & Civic Engagement at (813) 974-7595 or visit www.leadandserve.usf.edu.
The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.