Students head South for spring break to volunteer

By Ken Johnson
On March 22, 2013


While many students were looking forward to relaxing over Spring Break, some students were preparing to help others. They were participating in the Alternative Spring Break Challenge, which gives students a chance to assist those in need over the vacation.  

Junior Theresa Conn, who has gone on two Alternative Spring Break trips, said Alternative Spring Break is a substance-free alternative to spending potentially thousands of dollars going to a beach, or another vacationing luxuries. This year, around 100 students participated in Alternative Spring Break, going to nine different locations.

Some went to Cumberland Island and Dahlonega, Ga. for trail maintenance. Others went to East St. Louis, Ill. for daycare work.  The rest went to Benton, Ark., Danville, Va., Lucedale and Natchez, Miss., Waterloo, Iowa, or Waynesburg, Pa., for Habitat for Humanity.  

Junior Alison Letvinchuk is on the executive board for Alternative Spring Break Challenge and went to Natchez, Miss. While there she, along with eight others, helped finish a home that had been started in November. They put up walls and vinyl siding and put in some floors that hadn't been finished as well as painted walls and doorways.  

Part of the experience that amazed her was how no one in her group knew each other, yet they bonded during the 36-hour van ride.

The trip was an eye opener for her as well, as she didn't know how much poverty was in the United States.

"I think it's a great way to give back to those who don't have as much as we do," Letvinchuk said. She said she would recommend Alternative Spring Break to anyone who hasn't gone.  

Alternative Spring Break wasn't the only group headed off to help people during the week off. 30 students enrolled in an American Studies class, AMST 444B: New Orleans: Place, Meaning, and Context, went to New Orleans to help people there, as well.

AMST goes to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina struck in the summer of 2005. They work in conjunction with, which is working to rebuild New Orleans. Many houses in the area are still uninhabitable.  

Theresa Conn, trip leader for the AMST trip, said the groups there were ripping up a floor, laying tiles, participating in demolition work and cleaning a yard. Conn said that like Alternative Break Challenge the AMST trip is substance-free.

Conn went into college wanting to go on Alternative Spring Break and has found it rewarding and enjoyed the experience.  

Her favorite part was the relationships that she formed with people - not just the ones that went on the trip, but also the people they helped.

Senior Audrey Hickey went on the AMST trip to New Orleans for the second time this year. 

Her group of 10 people worked on building floors and removing the wall of a house. Hickey's favorite part of the trip was getting to meet the homeowner of the house she was working on.

"I chose to do this trip because it's very easy to get caught up in school, extracurriculars, friends, etc. when in college, and the trip is a good opportunity to see that there are more important things to think about [other] than yourself," Hickey said.  

Conn said that applications for Alternative Spring Break are available generally after winter break. Those interested can like them on Facebook or find them on WildcatLink.

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