Although most students spend Spring Break lounging on a beach or spending time with their families, some UCF students chose to use their Spring Break for the benefit of others. These students took part in UCF’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB), sponsored by Volunteer UCF, the Student Government Association, and the Recreation and Wellness Center.
ASB places teams of UCF students in communities around the country to engage in volunteer service projects with local non-profit agencies.
This year’s ASB trips sent students to volunteer sites across the southeast including the first-ever trip outside the continental US. Projects involved students in a variety of activities from repairing damaged homes that had been untouched since Hurricane Katrina to working in the classroom with underprivileged children. ASB participants volunteered at the following service sites:
Each trip is comprised of eight students, one student site leader, and one faculty/staff advisor. The site leader participates in an extensive training program and takes an integral role in planning the trip and developing the service-learning plan for the entire experience. Many students attending this year’s ASB are returning participants, some of which have accepted the additional responsibility of becoming a site leader for their trip. The advisor also attends a training program and assists the site leader in planning the trip; onsite the advisor leads the logistical oversight and group reflection. “The role of advisor is also a wonderful experience for the university’s faculty and staff to interact with some exceptional students,” stated an advisor.
For many students, there’s no better way to spend a week than ASB. “I’m very passionate about this work and I had a great time,” said Jessica Schwendeman, site leader for Birmingham, AL’s Junior Achievement Trip. “I feel like it’s a waste of time to just sit around. However, helping someone else is fulfilling to me as an individual. I have the rest of my life to sit around.”
One ASB group volunteered their service in a town called Brookside, Alabama, which was still recovering from a flood back in 2003. Throughout the trip the volunteers did several services including: pulling invasive plant species, cleaning a house, picking up trash along the roads and removing tires from a river. “It was an experience of a lifetime,” said Wade Bass, student. “It was a humbling experience. Seeing how little this town had, meeting with the mayor and seeing how happy he was with his town . . . really brought me down a few notches. This trip helped me not to take so much for granted and really look at my life to see how fortunate I really am to live in a city with so much opportunity.”
For the first time, Volunteer UCF sent students via airplane to San Juan, Puerto Rico to work with a dog shelter called Save a Sato. “After the first four hours, we were really tired,” said Marlon Gutierrez, a junior business major. “The woman who runs the place—she basically takes care of 200 dogs by herself. There was a lot of work to be done.”
The ASB participants displayed a dedication to community and personal values rooted in a strong sense of integrity, that reflect the values exemplified in The UCF Creed. For more information on Alternative Spring Break, call the Volunteer UCF office, 407.823.6471, which is located in the Student Union, room 208.