Springing into service

While some students spend spring break relaxing at the beach or partying with friends, a group of USF students will be using their time away from exams to serve the community.

A group of about 33 students is joining Volunteer USF to take an alternative break by volunteering their time to assist disabled children and the homeless, and improve the environment.

Amy Simon, coordinator for Volunteer USF, said the students will be volunteering in communities outside the Tampa Bay area because it allows them to do intensive service living and work in the community at the same time.

“It’s a way to have an alternative break,” Simon said. “Instead of going to the beach, students will be making a difference somewhere.”

The three alternative spring break locations include Jacksonville, Bristol and Warm Springs, Ga. Each location is designated with a specific type of service ranging from working with the youth to maintenance projects.

“This allows students to have a choice if they want to really interact with the people or do hands-on building projects,” Simon said. “We are part of an incredible organization that makes a real difference.”

Senior Rosie Howard went to Jacksonville last year for the alternative break and worked with a class of disabled children. Howard said the experience was rewarding for both the children and herself.

“For them to speak for the first time or stand up for the first time was just amazing,” Howard said.

This year Howard will be attending Jacksonville as a site leader and will be working at the same school again.

“I hope to see the same children I worked with,” Howard said. “You have a greater enjoyment for life once you do something like this.”

During the summer, Volunteer USF registered with a national non-profit organization called Break Away, which gives schools advice on how to better serve a community. Break Away assists 65 schools across America by training them with skills they need to have before volunteering in another community during an alternative break project.

Dan McCabe, executive director for Break Away, said students who are spending a week serving in another community need to be connected with the people and environment before serving in their community.

“The students need to be educated on the social issues they are working with and learn about the environment,” McCabe said. “For example, we will set up community dinners so they get to know the people they will be working with.”McCabe said more students are volunteering, and many organizations across the nation do these types of alternative break services. McCabe, who has volunteered in alternative breaks, said it is a service that takes a lot of preparation, but it gives students an experience that is worth the time.”Spending your spring break laying on the beach is fun, but you are not going to remember the conversations you had,” McCabe said. “But spending a week helping people in the community is an experience that you can always remember.”