The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning organizes a series of Alternative Spring Break trips to give students an opportunity to perform service work together off campus. This year five spring break trips were organized, from as close as Lyons, N.Y., to as far away as Nicaragua. Most of the trips started at the beginning of break on March 11.
In Memphis, Tenn., eight students have been working full days along the Mississippi River. They joined Chad Pregracke of Living Lands and Waters Inc., the service host for this trip, and have been traversing the Mississippi River, both on foot and in boats, working to remove the debris that is polluting the river and impairing the habitat of some indigenous wildlife.
“We just got off the river and are finishing up our second day here in Memphis,” says Community Outreach Coordinator for the Finger Lakes Institute Sarah Meyer, the group leader and event coordinator for the program. “Today, the weather was pretty cold but the students kept their spirits very high and are really enjoying themselves.”
Most of the trash surrounding the Mississippi River is liter, bottles, cans and Styrofoam. “Every morning we meet the Living Lands and Waters Crew at the public docks and we ride upstream,” Meyers says. “The HWS students are eager to do all that they can. Every little bit helps! We will continue to work on the river this week — rain or shine! We are collecting rare and special pieces of trash from the river to form into an artistic sculpture to display during Earth Week on campus.”
Students on this trip will also stay overnight at a 900-acre organic farm in Lucas, Ohio, and at the Music City Hostel in Nashville, Tenn.
Nine HWS students have also traveled to Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton, N.C., where they are spending the week working with this rural elementary school. Students are taking part in one-on-one tutoring sessions, group reading, math help, and general classroom assistance. They are also preparing activities for children to participate in during the after-school program run by the Norlina Methodist Church, which also serves as a host site where meals are prepared, consumed, and reflection activities occur. The trip is being led by Assistant Professor of Education Khuram Hussain.
Another spring break experience is giving HWS students the opportunity to have an abroad experience and give back and lend a helping hand to those in need. Twelve students are spending their spring break in Ticuantepe, Nicaragua, with a program run by Bridges to Community, a non-profit cultural exchange organization. The goal behind the organization is to help create a world where basic needs are treated as human rights: shelter, nutrition, education, healthcare, and employment. They bring groups of volunteers into materially poorer areas, where they work on ongoing community development projects. HWS students are currently working on things such as building houses or school kitchens.
Meanwhile, five students, led by Jeremy Wattles, assistant director of Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, are spending the week outside of Richmond, Va., in Pocahontas State Park. They are clearing land for an educational nature trail, refurbishing fishing piers, installing drainage pipes, and building bridges.
“Mainly, we’ve been working on a cabin. We’ve been making repairs and renovations on it, repainting it and such,” says Blake Taylor ’13. “The project benefits the AmeriCorps organization, which helps people in need. This cabin is for someone who will hopefully be living here this summer.”
Closer to home two students, Tim Carter ’12 and Megan Van Dorp ’13, are working on immigration issues, as well as the dynamics of food production in Lyons, N.Y. Carter and Van Dorp are working with Rural and Migrant Ministry, a statewide, non-profit organization that advocates for social change by educating students on the working conditions of migrant farm workers. They are getting the chance to interact with workers from South and Central American countries (including Mexico, Jamaica, and Haiti), and examine the various dynamics between large agribusinesses and the rural workers.
“It will be exciting next week when the students return to campus and we can learn more about their experiences,” says Katie Flowers, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. “Alternative Spring Break trips provide a wonderful opportunity, offering students a chance to serve new communities and people, explore new cultures, and try new things.”
Once student return to campus, there will be an all-group recap and meeting during which the HWS community will be invited to hear what students learned on the trip.
In the photo above, HWS students build a cabin in Pocahontas State Park.