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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Service

Spring break is right around the corner and one group of Aggies have decided to spend it serving the community.
Alternative Spring Break (ASB), a chapter of the national organization Breakaway, is a student organization that coordinates community service trips around the country in an effort to encourage students to become active citizens and agents for social change committed to social justice for the rest of their lives.
“The purpose of ASB is to increase participation and awareness in social issues and active citizenship,” said the organization’s student activities adviser Sarah Edwards.
ASB has four trips planned for this year encompassing a wide range of social issues. Each trip has undergone a detailed process and has been specifically chosen to provide the greatest benefit to the service agency as well as to the participants.
The eight-member executive team has spent the past year researching and contacting different agencies, charities and service organizations in the complex decision-making process.
“The team decides what social justice issues we want to focus on for the coming year, finds areas that would be ideal, and then votes on them,” said ASB chairman James Philip, a junior biology major.
Once the trips have been chosen, the next step of the process requires extensive planning. The organization is entirely student-run and the executive team is responsible for finding housing for the duration of the trip, planning meals, securing transportation, designing applicant contracts, training site leaders and marketing the trips to students.
“Their persistence really impresses me,” Edwards said. “Each year they work really hard to get it done.”
The social justice issues chosen for this year are focused on helping the disabled, aiding the under-served and preserving nature and the environment, Philip said.
Trips include Project Lazarus in New Orleans, La.; Moody Nature Reserve in Southeast Ga.; Challenge Enterprises in Green Cove Spring, Fla.; and Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.
Project Lazarus is a compassion organization founded to enhance the quality of life of people with AIDS who can no longer live independently and whose family is unable to care for them. The students on this trip will spend time with the patients and assist the facility with other labor needs.
The Moody Nature Reserve is a nature conservation program working to protect Georgia’s forests, rare vegetation and native animals found nowhere else in the world. ASB participants will take part in clearing trails, building fences and planting native species.
Challenge Enterprises of North Florida is a disabilities center whose mission is to promote the power and possibilities of individuals living with disabilities. The students participating in this trip will help train disabled children in certain educational aspects to help them realize their full academic potential.
The ASB group volunteering at Arkansas Children’s Hospital will spend time with the patients, creating a positive atmosphere through interactions such as conversations and playing games.
Students participate in the Alternative Spring Break program for a variety of reasons, Edwards said.
“It’s really fun to see the different motivations,” Edwards said.
“Some participants are international students or native Texans who want to get out and see the rest of the country. Some are service-oriented who want to go for the experience. Others are more career-oriented, looking for service to put on their résumés.”
Jeff Supak, a sophomore environmental studies major, said his reason for volunteering is because service is what he loves to do.
“[Spring break] is the perfect time since I won’t be stressed with school or anything,” said Supak, a nature reserve trip member.
The emphasis on active community service extends beyond the one-week trip during spring break.
ASB groups usually do one service project per month, such as the upcoming campus-wide project Big Event, Edwards said.
“We try to instill an act of citizenship in our members to volunteer not only in our organization, but others as well,” Philip said.

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