USF Students Trade Tanning on Spring Break to Taking Action in the Community

By Laura Kneski
     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (March 7, 2014) - Their spring break won’t resemble the parties on MTV or the shenanigans that took place in Spring Breakers, but some of these USF students still might get a tan.

The Bulls Service Breaks volunteering trips will take place again this year, including almost 143 students who sacrificed their only week without homework in order to help out people who, believe it or not, have bigger problems than a low exam score.

Volunteer builders at orientation for Habitat for Humanity.

“These students care a lot about the service they’re doing,” said Mallory Trochesset, who began advising BSB participants last year. “They’re very passionate about it. They continue to come back to obtain advanced leadership experiences, so I think BSB provides a really stellar opportunity to not only make a contribution but gain a lot in the process.”

Each team of volunteers consists of at least about a dozen students who have selected from a list, not of the states that they would travel to, but of the volunteering category that they would like to be a part of. Sustainability, animal rights, youth and education, and LGBT rights and issues are a few of the categories a student can choose from to help. More recently added programs are a trip concerning gang violence, as well as the highly requested women’s health issues trip.

The BSB experiences are a part of a program run by the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. With this in mind, it makes sense that they try to make these trips as student-run as they can.

One member of USF faculty, staff or graduate school acts as financial authority, driver and double-checker of policy. Other than that, though, student site leaders are responsible for creating the itinerary, including meals and lodging.

USF students serve food at a homeless shelter.

“They’re in charge to the point where they then don’t have the authority to make some of those reservations,” said Trochesset. “But they inform us. We rely on them to tell us where they’re going and what they’re doing, and trust that they’re making smart decisions in those ways.”

Each site leader must be able to think critically and, of course, work well with others. Two site leaders are designated to each team. Such is the case with Shelby Thomas, a second-year international business and international studies major who went to Connecticut last year with BSB in order to help refugees from politically fragile countries adjust to living in the U.S.

This year, she, her co-site leader and their team will go to Tennessee and live a week without chemically-based shampoos, lotions and cosmetics on a sustainability farm.

“There’s a bit of excitement, I think, in change, as well as a bit of anxiousness,” Thomas said. “But I think that the excitement definitely overpowers the anxiousness on my team.”

USF students volunteer their landscaping skills during Bulls Service Break.

To prepare, Thomas and her team spent three hours at Sweetwater Organic Farm weeding, digging an irrigation hole and whatever else they were asked to do in order to get a better sense of what would be expected of them during spring break. Thomas mentioned that her team is also excited to learn how to cook more sustainably.

The BSB program builds relationships with its participants and the community members that they help. Trochesset said that Kid Power, a Washington D.C. nonprofit that promotes academic and emotional wellness in local youth, called her last year to ask why USF did not come back following the initial time a BSB team visited. They appreciated the volunteers so much that they wanted them back, so Trochesset proposed it to the student-led BSB Board as a program for spring 2014.

“It’s a lot of layers,” Trochesset said. “So as you can see there’s the advising team, there’s a board of students who are thinking big picture BSB. Site leaders who are planning the details of those trips, and then participants who are part of the experience. So it’s a very complex organization with a lot of moving parts, so it takes a lot of people to make this work well.”

On a BSB international service trip, USF students repaint the computer room at a Belize school. 

Photos Courtesy of the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.

The goal of BSB is to get students one step closer to being an active citizen.

“It’s not just going and doing service,” Trochesset said. “It’s transformative.”

BSB Board applications are out now, and more information on applying for a leadership position within the CLCE can be found here.

Laura Kneski is an intern for USF Communications and Marketing.