Real life experiences ahead for some over break

By Molly Rafter

Though buff bodies, tan skin and drinking as a sport might be what many college students associate with spring break, some University students choose to spend their spring break doing goodwill and mission work.

Alternative Spring Break is a student-run program through the University YMCA that devotes its time to organizing service trips over school breaks. The group goes to several affected areas around the United States to volunteer its service.

“Twelve groups are going to twelve different areas around the nation this Saturday,” said Jennie Kwon, co-chair of Alternative Spring Break and senior in LAS. “Some of the groups are going to help migrant farm workers’ rights in San Juan, Texas, pediatric cancer patients in Houston and Native Americans in Dupree, S.D.”

The group raises its own money to go on the trips by fundraising and giving direct contributions.

“The board fundraises for some of the expenses and then students have to come up with the rest,” Kwon said. “Those that can’t pay for the trip can be granted a scholarship to pay for the expenses.”

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Eugene Bord, junior in business and treasurer of Alternative Spring Break, described his past service trips as positive experiences.

“I’ve been to Immokallee, Fla., to help the homeless,” Bord said. “We got to help with maintenance work at the homeless shelter, as well as hang out with the homeless parent’s children during the day.”

Some fraternity brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon are devoting the bulk of this year’s spring break by working with the residents on the Olglala Sioux Tribe Native American Indian Reservation to build homes in Pine Ridge, S.D.

“Thirteen guys from our house (Sigma Phi Epsilon) and one mom are going on a road trip to South Dakota,” said Kevin Casey, sophomore in LAS.

Casey said that each person would raise $150 for gas and other expenses.

“Our alumni board will double whatever money we raise and then we will give the extra money directly to the Native Americans,” he said.

Casey added that he believes the experience will be a rewarding one.

“I think it’s going to be a great bonding experience with the guys from the house,” he said. “This was something I wanted to do before I graduated. I know it’s going to be a good learning experience.”

Although alternative spring break trips may include solely service activities, Campus Crusade for Christ brings in a religious component to their trip.

Campus Crusade for Christ offers members the chance to attend a leadership conference in Panama City Beach, Fla., each spring break.

“We go on a mission trip to Panama City Beach to share spiritual experiences with people,” said Jason Padiak, junior in engineering.

Podiak said members who attend the leadership conference pay for the trip, but those who cannot afford to pay ask for donations from their home churches.

He said the best part of the trip was getting to talk to complete strangers about God.

“It’s cool to be able to talk to the typical spring breakers,” Padiak said. “Many of them open up and explain to us about their unfulfilled desires they had with partying – they are very open about spiritual conversations.”

Regardless of where each group goes or what they do, however, the alternative spring break groups all agree that their service work is beneficial and rewarding.

“It’s a much more productive way to spend time,” Podiak said. “It’s amazing to be able to share faith with other people.”

Kwon also said she believes the trips produce long-term benefits.

“Students attend the trips, and they learn through direct service,” Kwon said. “They work out the issues on the trip, and they bring the solutions back with them and incorporate them into the current problems facing the campus and community.”

Bord said his past trips made him appreciate helping others.

“I was born in a different country, and when I came to the U.S. when I was seven, my family didn’t have a lot of money,” Bord said. “If I can spend the week giving back to people who are going through the same experiences I went through when I was young, then it’s all worth it to me.”