Partying with a purpose

Spring Break is usually for partying but some U students are using the time off to serve others and restore the environment through the Alternative Spring Break program from March 11 through 15.

The program started in 1997 and has increased every year from two trips to seven, said Kara Stowers, program coordinator and senior in chemistry and chemical engineering.

Trips to urban areas provide opportunities for service in neighborhoods dealing with social problems, such as homelessness and poverty.

Environmentally conscious students are traveling to Arcata, Calif., Point Reyes, Calif. or the San Juan River to promote responsible living, recycling and habitat restoration.

To raise money, program participants clean the Huntsman Center about three times a year.

“Each group has a different focus. We usually have a pretty good balance between social issues and environmental issues,” Stowers said.

The program offers a unique experience by allowing students to do service with peers from other majors who they might not ordinarily meet with, she said.

The program also helps participants to look at an issue differently, such as thinking of a place as if it was your own hometown, Stowers said.

“We want to provide an opportunity for a student to be deeply involved in an issue then come back and take what they learned into their local community,” she said. “There is something about working on an issue for a week.”

Jen Colby, staff partner for the Point Reyes National Seashore restoration trip, said this will be her first Alternative Spring Break experience.

“I can’t wait to leave. ASB will be such a great opportunity to share a week of concentrated service with a small team of students outside of our day-to-day lives in Utah,” Colby said.

She said she is looking forward to the trip because it will give her the chance to learn how our own social and environmental issues are related to those in other communities while on a road trip having fun.

Emily Wall, senior in social work and site leader of the San Francisco trip, said her and her staff partner, Jaymes Myers, senior in speech communication, are planning service activities including serving meals to the homeless and volunteering at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

“My experience with ASB so far has been nothing short of life-changing,” Wall said.

Last year, she went on her first ASB trip to Tijuana, Mexico where she did cement work for local schools because they do not have funding to create places for the children to play outside of class.

“It was incredibly hard work, but it was amazing to get to know the community volunteers working on their little amount of free time to better the school their children go to,” she said.

Wall said it’s impossible to understand the experience without having spent time in Tijuana in the low-income areas.

“After returning from that experience I applied to be a site leader so that I could help set up such an experience for other students,” she said.

A rafting trip down the San Juan River is new for this year.

The deadline for joining an Alternative Spring Break group is Feb 15. Applications can be found online or at the Bennion Center, room 101 in the Union.

Only a few spots are left in the Portland and San Juan River groups; both are new trips this year.

Three offices help fund the ASB trip: the Bennion Center, Office of Health Promotion and Campus Wellness Connection contribute about $1,000 each.

ASUU and participants also help fund the trips. The cost for students ranges from $150 to $325.

[email protected]