Alternative Spring Break Connects Students to Communities
- By Amanda Kenyon Waite
About 150 UVM students spread out around the country last week to participate in Alternative Spring Break (ASB), a student-run initiative that matches student volunteers with service projects from Minnesota to Florida, Maryland to Colorado. While one team worked on affordable housing and Head Start initiatives in Biloxi, Miss., another volunteered at the Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro, N.C. And 13 other teams addressed issues ranging from violence against women to wildlife preservation to rebuilding disaster-impacted communities.
Begun at UVM in 1991, ASB had just 27 student participants in its first year, says program adviser Laura Megivern, assistant director of Student Life, Leadership and Civic Engagement. This year, 150 students worked at 15 service sites, six of which have hosted UVM volunteers in years past. “We’ve built relationships with those organizations over time,” Megivern says.
Senior Danielle Greenwald, a human development and family studies major, served as one of three co-directors (along with AJ D’Allessandro ’14 and Corynn Benoit ’14), who helped plan and fundraise for the 15 excursions. Her third time participating, Greenwald traveled this year to Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, where the UVM crew helped the national park with off-season tasks like trail maintenance and lighthouse cleaning.
Greenwald says she “got hooked on service trips” her first year at UVM, when she joined Service TREK, an August activity for incoming first-year students to volunteer around Vermont. Greenwald has helped lead Service TREK every year since.
About ASB, Greenwald says, “I think it’s a wonderful way to spend your spring break. It can be a lot of fun, and it can be a meaningful experience to get involved in communities all across the nation, in places you may or may not have been before — to get out and make a difference.”
Her advice for students who may be interested in participating next year: “Applications come out around October. You have to be on top of it in the beginning of the year.”
During the week, participants took to social media to share their work and travels with the hashtag #uvmasb. Check out some of the photos from the week on Instagram (and scroll through more):