Colorado State University Students Prepare for Spring Break, Alternative Style

More than 150 Colorado State University students will devote Spring Break ’10 to community service and social and cultural education by participating in the university’s Alternative Break program. This year students will be traveling to one of 13 destinations to assist in a wide variety of service projects.

“I participate in Alternative Breaks because I love to volunteer. I think that it is really important to go out and engage in the community,” said Tisa Kunkee, New Orleans disaster relief group leader. “Alternative Breaks are also a great way to meet a lot of new people who have similar interests to yours.”

The Alternative Break program provides a complete immersion experience into different cultural, environmental and socioeconomic communities across the globe. Host communities provide educational experiences focused on the current social and cultural issues facing the area in exchange for volunteer services provided by students.

“I look forward to getting the chance to learn a great deal about the culture of the Smoky Mountains and Cherokee people through service work,” said Sam Bowersox-Daly, Alternative Break student coordinator who will travel to Maryville, Tenn. “Personally, I believe that when a person is given the opportunity to really learn something about themselves through places and people who offer diverse backgrounds and stories, they should take it.”

The program is designed to generate active citizens who make the community a priority when making life choices. While the participating communities benefit from tangible work completed, the students gain a broader understanding of the world around them and the every-day issues others can face.
Students visiting Washington, D.C. will work directly with the homeless population of the city.

“We will be involved in the Student Homeless Challenge a program through the National Coalition for the Homeless,” said Ian Krammer, Washington, D.C. group leader. “We will sleep on the streets, use the services in the area for the homeless and try to find the resources for food, shelter and money while we are there. We also will be working in the nation’s biggest homeless shelter that is only a few blocks away from the Capitol.”

Students often return with a deeper sense of the complexity of social issues and a stronger commitment to resolving root causes of problems. Many choose host sites that are relevant in some way to their academic course work.

“I am an environmental sociology major so going to New Orleans connects to what I learn in class in major ways,” said Kunkee. “I have even taken a class about disasters and we talked a lot about Hurricane Katrina and looked at what sociopolitical interaction was involved in this ‘natural’ disaster. I am really excited to see first-hand what we talked about in that class as well as experience a place that is like no other in the United States.”
Many participants have hailed the experience as fundamentally life-changing and the best week they have ever had.

“This is hands down the best program that CSU has to offer its students,” said Jeffrey Garkow, Tennessee group leader and five-time Alternative Break participant. “It’s a chance to do something relevant over spring break with an amazing and dedicated group of people. You learn not only about an area of the country or world that you might not have known about before, but also a lot about yourself.”

Alternative Spring Break 2010 destinations include:

-Achiote, Panama: Working with CEASPA, a local organization, students will focus on environmental conservation and ecotourism with construction and environmental projects.

-Catalina, Calif.: Students will focus on environmental issues including trail building and repair, environmental education projects and landscaping.

-Independence, Calif. in partnership with CSU’s Asian Pacific American Student Services: Students will learn about and help preserve the Manzanar National Historic Site, one of the sites where Japanese people were interned during World War II.

-Kanab, Utah: Students will volunteer at the Best Friends Animal Society, the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals.

-Kissimmee, Fla.: Students will work with Give Kids the World, an agency that helps fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses by working as amusement park ride operators and concessions stand monitors at the Give Kids the World Village.

-Maryville, Tenn.: Students will work with Once Upon a Time, an agency whose mission focuses on the Cherokee Nation and rural Appalachia, in preserving the natural environment in this biosphere and assisting the community.

-Moab, Utah: Student will work with Plateau Restoration, a non-profit organization whose mission it is to protect and restore of native habitats of the Plateau through hands-on research, education, re-vegetation and restoration projects.

-New Orleans, La.: Students will volunteer for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit organization created and dedicated to the rescue and aid of abandoned and homeless animals in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

-New Orleans, La.: Students will help support disaster relief by rebuilding homes in St. Bernard Parish, in partnership with the United Way and the St. Bernard Project.

-New York City, N.Y.: Students will work with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis helping to spread the center’s fight against HIV and AIDS.

– Shiprock, N.M.: In conjunction with CSU’s Little Shop of Physics students will be visiting various Navajo schools to perform hands-on science experiments with youth.

-Washington, D.C.: Students will volunteer with Community for Creative Non-Violence in the nation’s capital providing services to residents of the nation’s largest transitional homeless shelter.

-Arizona/Mexico: Students will work in the Arizona desert with Humane Borders by providing emergency water stations for immigrants crossing the border while interacting directly with those affected by immigration.