University of Vermont

University Communications

UVM Students to Study Civil Rights and Offer Service on Alternative Summer Break

Release Date: 05-08-2002

Author: Andrew Feldman

With classes ending and final exams coming to a close, most University of Vermont students are making summer plans and getting ready to relax. But for eight students and two staff members, Alternative Summer Break offers a new opportunity to learn and serve. From May 11-18 (traditionally Senior Week), the group will visit Georgia and Alabama to explore the civil rights movement and volunteer in several communities.

The service trip includes stops in Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, where participants will visit some of the most important civil rights historical sites in the nation, including the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, site of a bloody confrontation between civil rights leaders and state troopers in 1965; the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, where four young girls were killed in a bomb blast in 1963; the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King, Jr., preached his first sermon; and the Empire Theater bus stop in Montgomery, where Rosa Parks was arrested for not moving to the back of the bus in 1955.

"This is a different kind of alternative break service trip from what we have offered before," said Andrew Feldman, assistant director for community service and one of the program coordinators. "We don't usually have such an intentional educational component to our volunteer trips."

What will be similar to past alternative break trips is the volunteer work element, which will include participants cooking meals for AIDS and HIV patients in Atlanta, preparing and serving dinner at a homeless shelter in Birmingham and painting homes of low-income residents in Birmingham.

Another new feature of this trip is the requirement for all participants to bring back their experience in some way to campus next fall. This could include presenting a report to residential advisors; or residential floor; giving a campus slide-show open to the public; writing about the experience for the Cynic; exhibiting photos in the Living/Learning Gallery; or other creative outlet. Scheduled presentations to the Race and Culture course series are already planned.

UVM alumni were instrumental in making this trip possible. Brett Hulst, residence life coordinator at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and Frank Montecalvo, vice president for student development and dean of students at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, arranged housing in the residence halls on their campuses for the participants.

Alternative Summer Break continues an effort to offer volunteer service projects throughout the year for UVM students. In the 2001-02 academic year, students volunteered with eight Alternative Weekends (October-April); Alternative Winter Break to Ground Zero in January; 10 Alternative Spring Break trips around the country in March; and Alternative Summer Break in May.

For more information, please contact Andrew Feldman at or 656-2060.