University housing provides alternative spring break options


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By Natalie Stewart

University Housing provides a variety of alternative break options at a discounted rate for students interested in doing service projects that involve building, community and environmental work.

Abigail Petersen, social justice and leadership education intern for University housing and senior in ACES, said she first became involved with alternative spring break her sophomore year.EJ

“I first got involved when I was a participant for the housing spring break. I saw an advertisement for it when I lived in Bousfield and I decided, ‘Why haven’t I done anything over spring break before?’ and I wanted to try it,” she said. “I used to do service in high school so I was a participant, and I went to New Orleans my sophomore year.”

Petersen said service doesn’t start when students get to their volunteer sites, but rather it is a process.

“We require our participants to reach out in their community, too,” she said. “We have to have our participants volunteer for ten community service hours in Champaign-Urbana first and then they can actually go.”

The prior community service requirement is built into the program to give students a more well-rounded and big-picture outlook on service.

“We want to build leadership, but also have students make a change and provide some kind of service to their community. We want to provide an outlet for that,” Petersen said.

This year, the program offered three different trip locations: one in Puerto Rico, another in New Orleans and a newly-added destination: Miami, Oklahoma. Though all of the trips are community-based, they have different types of projects in each location, Petersen said.

“In Puerto Rico, they do a lot of community work … they work with children and then they also do environmental work. In the past few years, they have been planting mangroves off the coast, which prevents corrosion, which is really important.”

In New Orleans, students mainly participate in a building project.

“There are homes that haven’t been inhabited for over 10 years,” Petersen said. “It’s just a big mess down there, so we help with that building project. But last year we also helped with the city park. So we did a little environmental work, but I think this year it’s just focused on building.”EJ

This year, the Provost office is initiating a new trip centered on cultural diversity in Miami, Oklahoma.

Petersen said they’ll be working with the Peoria tribe to bridge the gap between diversity in native cultures.

“We’re going to be doing environmental work, but also some community work,” she said. “I know some of our projects involved lead education. Contamination is a huge issue down there with mining, and we’re also going to be working at a fish hatchery.”

Petersen said students are encouraged to take advantage of these trips for both the interpersonal and external benefits they offer.

“(Participants) do the reflection portion and realize that this is really meaningful,” she said. “Students walk away having a greater sense of self. They understand that they are a part of something bigger. I think they walk away meeting so many new people and having (an) understanding (of) each other on a different level.”

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