University students use spring break trip to make a difference

By Liz Jassin

Some University students are using their spring break to take trips around the United States to learn about historical events, build houses for those in need and educate themselves through service.

Civil Rights Pilgrimage

This year, 52 students will travel on the annual U of I Civil Rights Pilgrimage, where they’ll visit museums and historical places around the southern United States.

University Housing helps fund the trip, so students pay around $320, depending on whether they live in a Living-Learning Community.

During part of the trip in Atlanta, students will have the opportunity to meet Rev. Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. about his experiences as a freedom rider in Selma, Alabama.

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Lafayette has met with University students on the trip for the last five years.

In previous years, the trip has followed the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., starting where he was born and ending where he died, said January Boten, area coordinator Ikenberry North Residence Halls.

This year the pilgrimage will start in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the trip will begin with a visit to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

“My hope is that the trip inspires people to have a framework to be able to make changes for whatever cause is important to them,” Boten said. “I feel like civil rights movements is the best example in the United States of people who were very unhappy and wanted there to be changes and them coming up with a solution for how to make those changes, and it working.”

Habitat for Humanity

More than 24 students from the University’s Habitat for Humanity campus chapter will travel across the country to build houses; Half will go to Sumter, South Carolina and the other half will go to Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Students pay about $300 to cover lodging and food.

Close to 20 other students will stay on campus to work on a house in Urbana. Alex Dowd, senior in Engineering, will begin leading the local project Monday morning.

“The reason I do habitat is for the kids, because a lot of the people that we help are single moms,” Dowd said. “We can help give them a stable environment.”

Dowd has participated with Habitat since freshman year.

“You can have no construction experience and we will teach you everything you need to know, and you drive by a couple months later and there is a family living in the house and you are like, ‘Hey, I framed that house,’” Dowd said.

Illinois Alternative Spring Break

Next week, 12 participants and two trip facilitators will travel on seven separate trips with the student-run Alternative Spring Break organization. Many groups will travel with an environmental focus to New Mexico, Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

The organization educates students about social, political and environmental issues through the spring break trip. Anwen Parrott, public relations chair of the organization and junior in LAS, has been a trip facilitator on several trips in the past.

Students pay around $300 to cover costs and receive discounts dependent on if they drive or facilitate. Participants can also apply for funding from the Maria Somma Scholarship by writing an essay.

Parrott said the trip welcomes a mix of people with different backgrounds.

“You get to talk about these trips in job interviews and on job applications, and that is amazing because most trips you wouldn’t be able to do that,” Parrott said.

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