Alternative Spring Break Offers Social Responsiblilty and Cultural Education for Colorado State Students

Nearly 90 Colorado State University students are dedicating their Spring Break week to social responsibility and cultural education by embarking on alternative trips around the country.

The Alternative Spring Break program at Colorado State is a week of immersion into different cultural, environmental and socioeconomic communities.  Students provide service in exchange for education about current social and cultural issues facing the host communities.

"The program was developed to create active citizens who think about and seek solutions to social problems and continue to contribute to their communities as a lifelong process," said Jen Johnson, assistant director for Volunteer and Community Programs in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Eight Colorado State trips are planned with about 10 students on each trip. Students involved in these projects come from many departments including landscape architecture, natural resources, liberal arts, social work and human development and family studies.

The Alternative Spring Break program offers many choices for students from working with urban youth in Chicago to building bird-viewing decks in Achiote, Panama.  

Student site leaders were selected for each trip last spring and started planning their trips in September. To be involved in the Alternative Spring Break program, students had to summit applications to student site leaders in October and if selected, started training in November.

Most students pay all expenses for an alternative spring break, except for students with Little Shop of Physics who are going to Navajo schools in Arizona and New Mexico this year. Sponsors of the numerous university organizations participating in that trip have paid for the students. The group will visit one school in Fruitland, N.M., and one in Red Mesa, Ariz.

"The goal of the visit is the promotion of science and technology to the students and their communities," said Ty Smith, director of Native American Student Services, who will join Brian Jones, director of the Little Shop of Physics, on the trip. "Each visit to the schools involves hands-on science experiments for children, after-school workshops for teachers to enhance their curriculum and an evening program to engage parents and community members."

Jones said getting more campus organizations involved has allowed a broader spectrum of students to participate.

"We have some science majors, but other students from other majors as well," Jones said. "All they need is a desire to take part."

Smith said Native American Student Services chose to collaborate with Little Shop, the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement and the Women & Minorities in Engineering Program to reach out to the Native American population in the Four Corners area. Native American students and alumni from the region will participate in this year’s trip.

For students not interested in science, the Alternative Spring Break programs offer other options. All trips are focused on cultural and social responsibility.

Other trips this year:

-Achiote, Panama: The Panamanian Center for Research and Social Action is working with Colorado State to give students an opportunity to boost tourism by building a deck for bird watching in the village. They hope this will bring economic sustainability and community development to Achiote. A professor in the Landscape Design and Contracting Program and a Student Leadership and Civic Engagement associate director will travel with 16 Colorado State students to Panama.

-San Juan, Texas: Students will help build homes for migrant farm workers in collaboration with the Azteca Community Loan Fund.

-Catalina Island, Calif.: Catalina Island Camps will host Colorado State students who will lead environmental education trips on the island, build and maintain trails, plant trees and other activities to benefit the Catalina Islands environment.

-Seattle, Wash.: Students are teaming up with Lifelong AIDS Alliance to help with a big fundraising event called "Gay Bingo." Gay Bingo is a night of bingo with cash prizes, music and costumes to raise money for AIDS awareness.

-Chicago, Ill.: Students will work overnight shifts at homeless shelters in Chicago World Vision Chicago, an organization consisting of four shelters and homeless support agencies.

-Kansas City, Kan.: Operation Breakthrough is helping sponsor a trip with Lydia Kelow, assistant director of Black Student Services, and Colorado State students to visit civil rights sites such as the school at the center of Brown v. Board of Education.  The students will lead activities with urban youth and visit other civil rights organizations.