Fifty students choose charity over beach

During spring break, 50 USF students will spend their time helping the community as a part of the third year of Volunteer USF’s involvement with the national organization Break Away.

In 1991, two Vanderbilt University Students, Micheal Magevney and Laura Mann, formed Break Away. In the beginning, the organization was operating through the university. Since 2000, it has become a national non-profit organization based in Tallahassee.

USF is one of 70 chapter schools that are active participants in alternative spring breaks through Break Away.

Universities and colleges across the nation reach out to the community in Break Away’s national mission to connect college campuses with communities. Participants include Central Michigan University, Lafayette College, Manhattan College, Davidson College, the University of Florida, Florida State University and Agnes Scott College.

USF students will travel to five different locations of service this spring, including Clay County Association for the Retarded, Nature Conservancy, Fresh Ministries of Florida, Pennuel Ridge Retreat Center in Tennessee and Wesley Community Center in Georgia.

Every year, a board of students work with Volunteer USF coordinator Amy Simon to plan and organize the trips. The current board of Tim Luttrell, Sandy Legoute and Jamilia Sly started planning the trip during the summer. Legoute said they used the Break Away site bank to find locations of service. They then focused on recruiting both site leaders and group volunteers for the trips.

“The spring break trips make a big difference,” she said. “They create a weeklong environment for community outreach versus usual day-long events.

“You have much more of an impact since you get to know people during the week.”

All of the service sites are student led. At each of the sites, students assist and develop partnerships with the community.

“People fall in love with the people that they serve. They build friendships,” Simon said.

At each site, the type of outreach is different. Clay County Association for the Retarded is an outreach for people who have developmental disabilities. Pennuel Ridge Center and the Nature Conservancy are sites where students work hands-on with the environment. At Fresh Ministries, students will mentor children at an inner city after-school program and build homes with Habitat for Humanity. At Wesley Community Center, volunteers will be working with an elderly community.

The volunteers for the upcoming spring break include a variety of returning and new volunteers. Students come from different backgrounds and experiences. Legoute said she is participating this spring as a site leader for the second year.

Senior Stefanie Riviero said this spring will be her second working at a Bristol, Fla. site with the Nature Conservancy and Torreya State Park. Riviero said she chose the Bristol site to help an environment that is overlooked.

“It is going to help the community in Northwest Florida because of the work that is going to be done,” Riviero said. “It is a chance to meet new people I would not have normally met through the university setting.”

Each year, Volunteer USF has worked to expand its alternative spring break program. In its first year with Break Away, it only participated at one site. The second year, it branched out to three. Now in the third year, the USF program has grown to participate in five sites. Simon is excited at the thought of what will come in the future of the program here at USF.

“Hopefully, this is a beginning that will get people to do more,” Simon said.

Simon said volunteers are still needed for the 2003 alternative spring break outreach.