Monday, April 02, 2007

'Breaking' spring break norms

"I got hammered on Spring Break" - and it's a GOOD thing!

The Illinois Alpha SigEps may not have gotten much face time on NBC, but they had a very successful "Alternative Spring Break" building houses in Florida.

'Breaking' spring break norms - News

'Breaking' spring break norms

Students travel, commit to service during Alternative Spring Break

By Ebonique Wool

One week is all the time University students have for spring break, and it goes fast.

Many students go home and sleep in for the week, and others go on trips to Cancun or other vacation hot spots.

But some students choose to make a difference in other people's lives.

Alternative Spring Break at the University was founded in 1989 by a group of students who wanted to help Central American refugees in Brownville, Texas.

Now, the Alternative Spring Break program offers as many as 17 trips, going to places like Miami and New Orleans to help with the gutting and building of houses for those in need.

There are many different reasons students choose to participate in the Alternative Spring Break program, but one of the most common is to have the opportunity to help others and have a positive effect on their lives.

"It's something everyone should try at least once in their life," said Jake Hamlin, sophomore in LAS and member of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

He, along with 33 other of his fraternity members, went to Miami over spring break to help build houses for families who did not have the means to afford them. They worked with Habitat for Humanity and lived in a nearby church with other volunteer members.

Community service is important to the fraternity and they encouraged their members to participate in the trip.

"We see the inherent value in service," said Rich Pasquesi, junior in Engineering and fellow member of Sigma Phi Epsilon. "The brotherhood formed on a trip like this is wonderful. You can form stories to remember."

Students were also sent to New Orleans, La., to help rebuild and fix houses damaged from Hurricane Katrina. Students gutted houses and removed rubble to help speed up the rebuilding process.

"You really get in touch with reality and see that not everyone is as blessed as you are," said Mitchell Farag, freshman in LAS.

For Farag, the Alternative Spring Break program presented the opportunity to do something he had been unable to do before.

"I had wanted to help out with Hurricane Katrina since before I got to college," Farag said. "You can see your results and know that you are directly helping someone. That is my main motivation."

The Alternative Spring Break trips offer a variety of ways to help others while taking volunteers to interesting places. During their free time, students were able to walk around Bourbon Street and the French Quarter in New Orleans and others were able to lay out on South Beach in Miami.

These students believe they made a difference in another person's life and are fulfilled from the experience.

"I wanted to do something different than the regular spring break," said Hamlin. "I think it's a great way to expand your horizons."