North Texas Daily

Spring breakers lend helping hand across nation

Spring breakers lend helping hand across nation

March 22
00:19 2013

Alex Byrd

Staff Writer

At the halfway point of the semester, it is likely that “Vacation” by The Go-Go’s plays in the minds of excited spring breakers heading to the beach or the haven that is South by Southwest. However, for 30 years, students all over the United States have decided to give a helping hand to the community during their well-deserved escape from school.

The Alternative Spring Break program embarked on its fifth year with 150 students from UNT this month, growing exponentially from an initial six sites to 17 across the U.S.

The Center for Leadership and Service supports the annual operation to volunteer at assigned places including New Orleans, La.; Joplin, Mo.; Memphis, Tenn.; Selma, Ala., and many more. The different sites incorporate cleaning up natural disasters, alleviating homelessness, volunteering in animal shelters and working within faith-based projects.

“I chose SAMMinistries in San Antonio because I heard about the people they were helping, and I saw the heart and passion they had to serve others,” counseling senior Rebecca Werts said. “Also, I wanted to surround myself around others who wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.”

While this was Werts’ first experience with Alternative Spring Break, she is not new to volunteering. She personally works with NT40 and her church, Dominion Word in Denton, and hopes to help women in the future through counseling and Christianity.

“I believe that other students should do ASB because it gives them an opportunity to connect with those unlike them, or to be selfless, as opposed to possibly engaging in negative behavior,” Werts said.

There are also leadership opportunities for those who have attended Alternative Spring Break at least once or achieved leadership positions in organizations such as Emerald Eagle Scholars.

“After arriving in New Orleans, we relayed information back to participants from the advisors and directors of Common Ground, made sure that all participant needs were met,” said Salome Clarke, New Orleans site leader. “We were kept well aware of any issues, and made time to hold reflection meetings about our experiences each day.”

Clarke also mentors at Communities in schools at Denton High School, but learned more about herself, group dynamics and political and environmental issues that still affect New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“This definitely beats Padre or Miami any day because it fosters appreciation for the things in life we tend to take for granted and inspires continued motivation for education and awareness,” Clarke said.

Director of the Center for Leadership and Service Amy Simon said she enjoyed her ASB experience at Camp Summit in Argyle where she and other students became counselors for anyone from six-year-old special needs children to adults in their 60s. Simon has organized this community service sprawl for four years.

“We hope that this is only a starting point for students to get involved in the community,” Simon said.

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