Volunteer for vacation

As Spring Break draws near, it isn’t unusual to hear of USF students’ various Spring Break plans. While many are ready to spend their break with sunscreen at the beach or ski caps at the slopes, over 100 USF students are all set with a helping hand and a willing heart for Alternative Spring Break.

Volunteer USF, the university’s volunteer center, is offering Alternative Spring Break to 120 students this semester. The program gives students the option to spend spring break volunteering for agencies in or out of state.

“It’s a way to spend Spring Break volunteering across the country,” said Amy Simon, Volunteer USF coordinator. “We try to pick a wide variety (of locations) that will interest people with different types of service.”

This year, students will travel to 10 different sites, where they will volunteer at agencies such as Tara Hall Home for Boys, a home for at-risk boys in Georgetown, S.C.; Give Kids the World, an organization for children with chronic illnesses in Orlando; and Community for Creative Non-Violence, the largest homeless shelter in the nation, located in Washington, D.C.

“Each trip is led by two student site leaders,” Simon said. “They’ve been training since September. They are really trying to build a strong team so they’re not going on the trip as a group of strangers. They’re the ones in touch with the agencies, making sure that everything is all set.”

Site leader Jason Cardillo, a senior, looks forward to his Spring Break trip to the Bronx, N.Y., where he and his group will tutor adults who are preparing to take their GED.

“It’s not your typical Spring Break. It’s taking your Spring Break and giving it to others,” Cardillo said.

“Alternative Spring Break is an opportunity for students to spend their week doing something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives,” said senior Siobhan Quijano. “I could go to a beach and get wasted and not remember what I did all week, or I can have a life-changing experience.”

For Quijano, the choice is obvious. She will travel to Tara Hall Home for Boys in S.C. this Spring Break, and it will be her third Alternative Spring Break trip.

“We all come to college so that we can learn about the world. There’s just some things that you can’t learn from a book,” said Quijano. “You’re giving, you’re serving, you’re making a difference. For the student, you’re learning so much. You’re growing so much. You’re gaining so much.”

After Quijano’s first Alternative Spring Break trip to Jacksonville, where she volunteered at CCAR, an organization for disabled residents of the area, and her second trip to the Bronx, N.Y., where she volunteered with the homeless, she is more than ready for the time she will spend volunteering this Spring Break.

“I hope they would know there is more out there for them than just what they’ve seen so far,” Quijano said of the boys living in Tara Hall Home for Boys. “We can serve as role models. The world they know is such a small world, and there’s much more out there that they can conquer. We can serve as inspirations.”

Both Quijano and Cardillo have volunteered for various organizations in the past, and both agree that it is important for college students to volunteer some of their time. “It’s a great opportunity to widen your perspective,” Quijano said.

Cardillo said that volunteering is too often overlooked as an activity for college students to enjoy.

“You can always join sports teams, and you can always join fraternities. Volunteer work is something a lot of students take for granted,” he said. “It builds character. It builds leadership. It’s a great experience.”

Through Alternative Spring Break, Volunteer USF gives students the opportunity to participate in exactly what Cardillo believes is a character-building experience.

For any students who are interested, applications for next spring, as well as limited applications that are still available for this spring, can be found at the Volunteer USF office in the Marshall Center Underground, or those interested may call Simon at 974-5053.

“It’s pretty intense,” said Quijano of Alternative Spring Break.

“It’s the most powerful thing we do,” Simon added.