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Not your average spring break vacation

For many students, spring break is usually a time to relax, enjoy the beach and catch up on schoolwork.

This year, USF senior Brandilyn Hayes has bigger plans in mind. She is going to Atlanta to work with sick and abandoned babies.

Hayes will work with infants in an orphanage called My House, where she will be assisting caretakers by cleaning, feeding and changing diapers for numerous infants in need.

My House is a nonprofit charity in Atlanta that provides a “home-like” environment for infants.

According to the charity’s Web site, the mission of My House is to “provide a warm and loving home for these children until permanency plans have been made.”

“I am very excited,” Hayes said. “I love babies and have always wanted to become a neonatologist, so this will be a humbling experience for me.”

Hayes, along with eight other students and a graduate assistant, will be representing USF in Atlanta for one week.

But volunteering is not the only thing these students will be doing.

Several hours a day will be dedicated to working with the infants, but the rest of the time will be spent sightseeing or relaxing.

Her trip is one of 18 different Alternative Spring Break trips offered through Volunteer USF.

“It is a life-changing experience,” Volunteer USF coordinator Amy Simon said. “It may be a starting point, and many students come out of it deciding upon their major.”

Since the number of volunteer trips has been expanded, students have a diverse range of low-cost trips to choose from.

Students can either go to Washington, D.C., to work at the world’s largest homeless shelter, Louisiana to help rebuild houses for Hurricane Katrina victims or New York to work in soup kitchens.

Other places of interest are California, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina and even Florida.USF senior Andrew Read is a co-site leader for a trip to Biscayne National Park, off the eastern coast of Florida.

Alongside seven other students, Read will help restore designated wildlife areas from damage caused by Hurricane Wilma.

Read said he will be restoring the beach, park and several habitats that rest on the beach.

“I have been wanting to do it for years,” Read said. “I just haven’t had much time. This year, a friend told me about openings, so I applied and got in. It is a good opportunity to give back to the community and have some fun while doing it.”

Students filled out applications in October and participants were selected in November.

The cost of the trips range from $100 to $350, depending on location and accommodation expenses.

Hayes said she is excited about her trip to Atlanta.

“I will definitely come back with a different way of seeing things,” Hayes said. “It’s a great way to spend spring break.”