Rather than spending spring break at parties or on the beach, 35 students from Western Carolina University will travel to Chicago to help children and the homeless. From Saturday, March 1, to Friday, March 7, the group will volunteer with community service projects.
Co-sponsored by Last Minute Productions, WCU’s student activity-programming board, and WCU’s Center for Service Learning, the fourth annual alternative spring break trip will allow students to spend their break providing community service. All participants will perform service and learn about problems faced by members of communities with whom they typically would have little or no direct contact.
“Student participating in this trip will experience life and cultural aspects of Chicago as they provide community service and explore the city,” said Melanie Clark, Western’s assistant director of service learning. “They also will participate in thought-provoking reflections about the entire experience in an effort to open their minds and expand their world view.”
Students who participate in this year’s alternative spring break will have the opportunity to volunteer in several different service learning sites:
- The Chicago Children’s Museum, which organizes events and programs that support and influence children’s growth and development. The WCU group will assist with a special hands-on learning event for children.
- The Will Feed Kids Café, an after-school program for children that includes dinner each night. The WCU volunteers will conduct arts and crafts activities, organize games and work in the community garden.
- The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s not-for-profit food distribution and training center that distributes donated and purchased food through a network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to almost a half million adults and children every year. The WCU group will assist the center by sorting food to be distributed to its agency network.
- The Inspiration Corps Weekend Engagement Center, which helps people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by improving their lives through the provision of social services, employment training and housing, and by providing daytime social services, laundry and meals. The WCU student volunteers will assist the center by preparing meals and interacting with clients.
During WCU’s first alternative spring break trip in 2005, three students went to Pensacola, Fla., where they assisted with relief efforts following Hurricane Ivan. In 2006, 16 students logged more than 750 hours as they helped repair and rebuild the Bay St. Louis and Waveland communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Last year, 15 students traveled to the Greater Philadelphia area, participating in a variety of social service projects.
“I’m really happy to see an increase of alternative spring break participants from last year,” said James Contratto, WCU’s assistant director of A.K. Hinds University Center programs. “It’s great to see so many students spending their spring break by serving the community and having fun.”
While in Chicago, the WCU group will visit the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, a historical memorial to social worker Jane Addams and her innovative settlement house programs. They also will visit Millennium Park, featuring unusual architecture, landscaped and protected parklands, and a celebration of the arts.
“I’ve been participating in alternative spring break for three years now,” said Pat Garrett, a WCU entrepreneurship major from Spring Hill, Fla. “During each trip, I get to explore new cities and learn about their culture, and at the same time, I get to help the people of that city. Alternative spring break is very rewarding because I get to have a great time while I’m helping those in need.”
For more information, contact Charli Lehman, WCU’s program coordinator for the Center
of Service Learning, at (828) 227-2592.
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Last modified: Monday, Feb. 25, 2008