A Different Spring Break
USF students participate in Bulls Service Breaks to travel the country and learn about social issues.
USF students on Bulls Service Breaks in Virginia this year. Photo: Courtesy of Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement
By Brandi Hollis
TAMPA, Fla. (March 12, 2013) – With spring break in full swing, college students across the country are celebrating the annual event in various ways: some sleep in, some search for sun and surf and others travel home to visit family.
But for 150 University of South Florida students with varying majors and diverse backgrounds, spring break is all about volunteering for people they’ve never met, in a community they’ve never been to.
Every semester since 2001, the USF Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement has hosted Bulls Service Breaks (BSB), a program designed to raise awareness about social issues while broadening student’s horizons. Over spring break, the group will send 12 groups to states around the U.S. to volunteer.
“It’s not about going to really exotic locations in the country, it’s really rooted in service so that’s why the students choose social service issues first because they want that to be the guiding force behind how they make selections,” said Mallory Trochesset, associate director for the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
Adelia Joseph, a senior in bio-medical sciences and co-director of Bulls Service Breaks, has gone on a service trip every spring break since she was a freshman, but she downplays her active role in volunteering every spring break.
“I was going to sit in front of my television and eat cookies so I might as well,” she said.
Joseph has gone on a different type of service trip every spring break. In the past she has gone to Atlanta to feed homeless and elderly people on a poverty service trip and last year she worked to bring HIV and AIDS awareness to a community in Mobile, Ala. on a public health service trip.
This year she will be traveling with 11 other students to Tellico Plains, Tenn. to learn about sustainability. Her group will stay at Agata Mountain Organic Ranch and will help with farming vegetables, milking goats, and making soap to give to a local women’s shelter. Joseph’s group will also spend some time hiking Cherokee National Forest to understand why sustainability is so important.
“I’m so excited,” said Joseph. “I’ve never even been hiking before so that’s going to be exciting too.”
The ranch has even used hay to make the beds that the students will sleep in so Joseph and her group can fully immerse themselves in practices that minimally harm the environment.
Students who choose to volunteer for spring break with BSB get the opportunity to see another part of the country at a nominal cost. The organization works to provide transportation, housing, meals and sightseeing opportunities at a minimal cost to students as incentive to volunteer their only week off in the spring semester. BSB only accepts serious volunteers though.
“We really want students to be in the mindset of making a difference,” said Joseph. “Not only do students go and volunteer, we want them to reflect on what they’re doing so it’s something that stays with them. You really do impact lives and I think that’s something a lot of students don’t realize until they actually sit down and reflect on it.”
Jay Cruz, a sophomore in civil engineering, has thought a lot about the immigration service trip he volunteered for in his freshman year and will be doing another immigration service trip this year.
“It’s a subject very close to my heart because my parent immigrated here 19 years ago,” said Cruz. “I just want to give back to the community because in a way I can relate to them, coming from immigrant parents I understand the hardships that they face, whether it be something small money-wise or the language barrier which is huge here in America. It really makes a difference to have someone there being supportive, willing to help you with managing the process of coming from another country to the U.S.”
Last year Cruz traveled to Texas. This year he’s in Connecticut. He’s curious to see how different parts of the country handle immigration issues.
“[Texas] was very eye opening. I saw immigration here in Florida, but never really saw it in another state or viewpoint.”
Cruz’s group will work with Integrated Refugees and Immigrant Services in Connecticut to assist new arrivals to the U.S. with job training, English tutoring, and housing.
Like Joseph, Cruz downplays the time he is giving up to volunteer.
“If I didn’t do anything over spring break I feel like it would be a waste,” Cruz said. “I feel like I take so much from the community that I feel like it’s my turn to give back. And spring break is one of the great opportunities because you have a whole week.”