Breaking With Tradition
By Jenna Withrow
TAMPA, Fla. (March 29, 2010) – By the time spring break rolls around, most college students have only two things on their minds: sleeping in and laying out. The last thing many want to do is wake up early and work. But that’s exactly what a group of USF students did.
And many of them say they’d do it again.
More than 140 USF students attended Alternative Spring Break trips this year, volunteering at 18 different sites across the country. From restoring homes in New Orleans to fitting hearing aids in Kentucky, students gave up their precious relaxation time to help others in need.
Ten USF students headed for the nation’s capital from March 6 through 13 to help prepare meals for individuals and families dealing with life-challenging illnesses.
For USF junior Faithna Geffrard, who was a site leader for the “Yummy in My Tummy” trip to Washington D.C., the experience was rewarding.
“It opens your eyes. You see that there is more out there than just being a student,” she said. “There is so much you can do to help. You can impact people’s lives on a scale that you never even thought of.”
The students worked with Food & Friends, an organization that provides nutrition counseling, as well as prepares packages and delivers free meals and groceries to more than 1,400 people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses.
Half of the students’ days were spent in the kitchen, helping cook meals and boxing up groceries to be delivered. The students spent their afternoons sightseeing around the city, visiting historic monuments and museums.
“We did a lot of sightseeing, but you can do that on any trip,” said USF junior Bashar Al-turk, who attended the trip. “The thing that was most distinguishable about this trip was getting to meet the people at Food & Friends and help them out.”
Even though he didn’t get to sleep in late or catch up on school work, Al-turk said the trip was a great learning experience.
“It’s nice to see that making an effort and volunteering can actually pay off,” he said. “Usually you feel kind of insignificant when you’re volunteering, you feel like it’s not making that big of a difference. But it was nice to see how many people benefit from this.”
When USF sophomore Michael Concepcion signed up for the “Yummy in My Tummy Trip,” he wasn’t sure what to expect. Throughout the week, Concepcion and the other students had the opportunity to interact with some of the people who benefit from the services Food & Friends provides.
“Working with them was pretty memorable, just to see how sometimes we take things for granted,” he said. “Some of these people can’t even go out and buy their own food, it was very humbling.”
The 146 students who participated in Alternative Spring Break 2010 will discuss their experiences at a Reflections Ceremony on Monday, March 29 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center room 2708.
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.