Comets Give Time, Energy During Spring Break

Mar. 12, 2012

Alternative Spring Break 2011

Last year, one of the Alternative Spring Break groups worked with Habitat for Humanity to renovate, repair and construct new homes. This year, about 80 students are taking service trips this week.

As students from UT Dallas hit the road during spring break, most will have plans to get away from the rigors of college and enjoy some rest and relaxation. But about 80 students will head out for Alternative Spring Break, an experience that sometimes includes hard labor and always involves service and community outreach. 

The 10 trips planned this year—ranging from disaster relief to immigration awareness to educational mentoring—are set for March 11-17.  A staff adviser travels with each group. Each journey is designed with a particular social issue in mind. Some recreational activities are included on some agendas, but the primary focus is service. The students will perform about 40 hours of community outreach during the week.

Katie Walser, a junior historical studies major in the School of Arts and Humanities, said she’s enthusiastic about her trip. Walser is a co-site leader for a group that will work on sustainability projects in Elm Mott, Texas. Walser has participated in the program since she was a freshman.

“I’m learning sustainable techniques for farming, and I’m really excited because it’s something I haven’t had much experience with and it’s so different from my life as a college student,” she said. “I do ASB partly for the learning aspect and partly for the service. I’ve been really blessed. And if I can give my time to spread the wealth, well, that’s something I want to do as much as I can.”

Alternative Spring Break 2011

Some trips involve outdoor clean up and maintenance.

Monalisa Amidar, assistant director of the Office of Student Volunteerism at the University, said support from the Student Affairs Student Fee Committee means ASB participants pay a minimal fee for each trip. The trips vary in terms of location, service project and lodging. The lodging ranges from cabins, to emergency evacuation shelters, to a convent. One group will sleep in a Nicaraguan “model” home with no indoor plumbing or electricity. 

“This year, ASB registration filled quickly,” Amidar said. “That tells me our students are talking positively about their past experiences and that volunteerism continues to be an important social issue to them.” 

In addition to the Alternative Spring Break program, Amidar said, there have been 67 service events since last fall, involving 675 volunteers.

“Since August, our students have donated more than 4,200 total hours to service, which translates to a dollar value of about $90,000, or just over $21 per hour,” she said. “We have a very engaged student body, and many of them recognize that volunteer opportunities can lead to new friendships and even career opportunities.” 


Media Contact: Jenni Huffenberger, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2244, jennib@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu
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UT Dallas Alternative 
Spring Break Trips for 2012

Hunger and Homelessness (Washington, D.C.)
Primary agency: National Coalition for the Homeless.
Serving meals at soup kitchens, sorting and organizing donations and basic facilities maintenance.

Ecosystem Restoration (Pensacola, Fla.)
Primary agency: Community Collaborations International.
Native plant propagation, sea grass restoration, wildlife habitat improvement, dune restoration, storm water treatment, public land restoration and invasive species removal.

Disaster Relief (Birmingham, Ala.)
Primary agency: Community Collaborations International.
Rebuilding homes, park restoration, supporting after school programs, working at the Boys and Girls Club and environmental restoration.

Education (New York)
Primary agency: Junior Achievement of New York
Leading hands-on activities with students focusing on workforce readiness, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

Immigration (El Paso, Texas)
Primary agency: Annunciation House.
Meeting with U.S. Border Patrol and immigration lawyers, migrants and refugees, human rights activists and touring a maquiladora.

Park Preservation (Hulbert, Okla.)
Primary agency: Oklahoma State Parks.
Joining with Three Forks Nature Center to clean up and restore the park, as well as maintain the natural trail system.

Social Services (Wichita, Kansas)
Primary agency: Dear Neighbor Ministries.
Cleaning and minor home repair for families that have been victims of domestic violence. Also preparing garden plots and sort and distribute food.

Animal Rescue (Memphis, Tenn.)
Primary agency: Collierville Animal Shelter.
Walking dogs, grooming and playing with animals and cleaning kennels. May also perform landscape maintenance.

Affordable Housing (Jackson, Miss.)
Primary agency: Habitat for Humanity.
Renovating, repairing and constructing new homes for residents in downtown Jackson.

Sustainability (Elm Mott, Texas)
Primary agency: World Hunger Relief Inc.
Preparing vegetable beds, planting, livestock care and composting.

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July 24, 2014