As part of HWS Alternative Spring Break, 28 students are volunteering and engaging with communities locally and across the country as part of the annual program facilitated through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL).
This week, students are at Mariam Boyd Elementary School in North Carolina, Pocahontas State Park outside of Richmond, Va., Rural and Migrant Ministry in Lyons, N.Y. and Long Island, N.Y., and at the St. Bernard Project, outside of New Orleans, La.
“The Alternative Spring Break program has sent more than 400 Hobart and William Smith students on service trips since its inception more than 20 years ago,” says Jeremy Wattles, associate director of CCESL. “We find that it helps students enhance their classroom learning on a variety of issues such as education, environmental conservation, immigration policy and disaster relief. The program also offers students the chance to form new friendships and make a difference in communities where we’ve had longstanding relationships and a commitment to service as an institution.”
Visiting Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies Craig Talmage is leading the trip to Mariam Boyd Elementary School where students are participating in one-on-one tutoring, group reading and math support, and general classroom assistance duties. Several students are enrolled in classes in the HWS Education Department and will gain service-learning experience during the trip.
In Lyons, N.Y., students are assisting the Rural & Migrant Ministry (RMM), a state-wide, non-profit organization that advocates for social change by educating students on the working conditions of migrant farm workers. During the week, students traveled to the organization’s Long Island office, where they met with workers from South and Central American countries and examined the various dynamics between large agribusinesses and the rural workers.
Justas Valciukas ’19 has participated in Alternative Spring Break for three years and says the experience has “changed his perspective on the world.” He joined the RMM trip to learn about the people who grow fruit and vegetables. “We have met amazing people from Central America and Mexico who risked their lives to come here and work on farms. I want to see equality between all people; I think it is important to learn about the problems and help them gain equal rights,” he says.
Students at Pocahontas State Park are involved in various trail maintenance projects such as clearing land for an educational nature trail, installing drainage pipes, building bridges, and removing, rebuilding and replacing fishing piers. Students on the service experience in Virginia will also spend a day sightseeing.
The Julius G. Blocker ’53 Teaching Fellow Anna Meinig is leading the trip to St. Bernard’s Project just outside of New Orleans. Students are assisting with a range of volunteer building projects such as hanging drywall and insulation, sanding, painting, laying floors, and installing trim/doors and baseboards.
St. Bernard Parish County was rendered 100 percent uninhabitable following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. HWS first volunteered to repair two houses in the community when the project launched in 2006. Since then, St. Bernard’s Project has emerged as a leader in disaster resilience and recovery, with a mission to shrink time between disaster and recovery. The Colleges have returned to New Orleans and other natural disaster effected areas to assist relief effort and reconstruction. Visit HWS Responds to learn more about disaster relief initiatives at the Colleges.