Spring Break is one of the most anticipated times of the year for students. They plan exotic getaways that provide an experience that takes them far away from the rigors of everyday life. Although most students see Spring Break as a time for themselves, a group of UCF students chose to use their Spring Break for the benefit of others. They participated in an opportunity that took them far away from their everyday world, in the hope of making a positive change in the lives of others. These students took part in UCF’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB), sponsored by Volunteer UCF, Student Government Association, Housing and Residence Life, LEAD Scholars, 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. 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:

  • Mid Atlantic Border Collie Rescue, Chestertown, MD
  • Hurricane Katrina Relief, New Orleans, LA
  • Stop Hunger Now, Charlotte, NC
  • Habitat for Humanity, Pontotac, MS
  • Habitat for Humanity, Maryville, TN
  • Save a Sato San Juan, PR
  • Cumberland Trails, Crossville, TN
  • Junior Achievement, Birmingham, AL
  • YMCA, Savannah, GA
  • Extreme ASB in NC
  • Key Deer Refuge, Big Pine Key, FL
  • Team OCEAN, Key West, FL
  • Therapeutic Horseback Camp for Autistic Children, Virginia Beach, VA
  • Each trip is comprised of eight students, one student site leader and one faculty/staff advisor. The site leader goes through an extensive training program and takes an integral role in planning the trip and in the development of the service learning plan for the entire experience.

    Many of the 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. According to Naomi Parks, a site leader for Savannah GA trip, the most rewarding thing was “seeing the friendships that were made through the service experiences together, and how much of a positive difference we can make when we work as a team.” The advisor also goes through a training program and helps 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.

    Dave Moran, graduate assistant for the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) and faculty advisor for the Key West Trip said, “Connecting to the students on a different level and seeing how passionate they became for the organization we were helping really made me appreciate what we do in the OSI office.”

    The participants of Alternative Spring Break display a dedication to community and personal values rooted in a strong sense of integrity, that reflect the values exemplified in the university’s Creed. For more information on Alternative Spring Break, visit https://osi.ucf.edu/vucf/ or call the Volunteer UCF office 407.823.6471, which is located in the Student Union, room 208.