‘Break Away’ from the norm

For some students, spring break evokes thoughts of trips to Cancun and cheap beer. But for those students looking for a productive substitute, there is another option.

The Alternative Breaks program offers students an opportunity travel to various locations around the country in 16 different service trips from Jacksonville to Los Angeles during spring break 2007.

The program is a part of Break Away, a national program with more than 120 participating colleges and universities around the country. According to its Web site, Break Away’s mission is to train, assist and connect campuses and communities in promoting quality alternative break programs that inspire lifelong active citizenship.

The program initially began in 1991 at Vanderbilt University, where it officially became a nonprofit organization, according to Alternative Spring Break leadership board member Steven Mayock. USF is an associate member of Break Away and has been participating in the program for five years.

Based on the funding the program receives from Student Government, the USF branch plans to send 160 students to various places around the country this spring, Mayock said.

“Our ultimate goal is to create active citizens in the community,” Mayock said. “First we want to get people involved. The next step is to help our informed participants become conscientious citizens – getting people to ask, ‘Why?’ Hopefully then they will become active citizens where they will act on their concerns and make the community part of themselves.”

The program had 10 trips two years ago and only five the year before, he said.

While SG funds a portion of the costs, students pay the remainder. According to Mayock, the cost to students varies from $150-$400, depending on the type of service trip a student wishes to pursue. The majority of the cost goes toward the type of transit the trip requires, with transit using rented vans being the cheapest for students and flight to the location costing the most.

“We are going to help HIV patients in Los Angeles, we are helping the homeless in Washington, D.C., as well as building trails in Tennessee,” Mayock said. “It’s a good way to get to know people in your classes and in other organizations that you didn’t know before.”

According to the Alternative Breaks application, other trips include Memphis, Tenn., where students help with facilities; Jacksonville to help children and adults with developmental disabilities; an outreach to teens in Washington, D.C., where information will be provided regarding HIV and AIDS; and Atlanta, where students will help fix senior citizen housing.

Student Services will be holding its final information session for students today from 5 – 6 p.m. in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Room 106.

“We would like for people who are interested to come out to our last session,” Mayock said.

All students who wish to participate in the Alternative Breaks program this upcoming spring must submit their application by Thursday in the Marshall Center Underground. The application can be found and downloaded online at http://ctr.usf.edu/volunteer/Asbapp0607_2.doc.