UNT students can sign up to volunteer on 15 Alternative Spring Break trips
Senior integrative studies major Irene Osemwegie admits that she wasn't involved in activities outside of class during her first three semesters at UNT, and didn't have a faculty or staff member that she considered a mentor.
But then she learned about Alternative Spring Break from a friend who had recently transferred to UNT from another university. Started on college campuses in the 1990s, Alternative Spring Break trips raise students' awareness of social issues and injustices by providing the students with a week of community service and educational experiences. UNT offers the trips through the Center for Leadership and Service.
During spring break 2012, Osemwegie participated in UNT's ASB trip to New York City, where she and other students prepared meals for an agency serving those with AIDS and HIV infection, and other terminal illnesses, and delivered the meals to clients. She says the week "shaped my university experience."
"It was incredible. I developed leadership qualities that I didn't know I possessed. It's different when you're on a team and you're responsible for a certain number of people -- you'll quickly discover what type of leader you are," she says.
On the trip, Osemwegie met Hope Garcia, executive director of student affairs administration for UNT's Division of Student Affairs. Garcia was serving as the trip's staff advisor. Osemwegie soon took a job in the Division of Student Affairs office and also became a Green Jacket. And after being the site leader for an ASB trip to a food bank and homeless organization in Albuquerque, N.M., last spring, she's now the program chair for the Alternative Service Breaks Committee, leading training of the student site leaders for next spring's ASB trips.
The Center for Leadership and Service is offering 15 ASB trips during 2014 spring break, March 8-14. Students may apply online through Oct. 23 (Wednesday). The trips will take students to:
- Moore, Okla., and Joplin, Mo., to rebuild homes destroyed by the May 2013 and May 2011 tornadoes
- to a food bank in Memphis, Tenn., and an organization serving the homeless in San Antonio
- to Eureka Springs, Ark., for work on a wildlife sanctuary for lions, tigers and other felines
- to programs in St. Louis that serve abused children and homeless teenagers, among other opportunities.
Some of the trips are for specific groups of students, such as two trips to New Orleans for rebuilding homes devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Those trips are limited to UNT's Emerald Eagle Scholars and members of fraternities and sororities.
Service beyond spring break
In addition, for the first time, the Center for Leadership and Service is offering two one-day trips to Moore this semester and a trip to New Orleans the first week of January, with all of the trips focusing on disaster relief. Senior psychology major Catherine Savoie, the other breaks chair for the ASB committee, said at least 15 students will go to Moore on Oct. 19 and on Nov. 15, and nine students will go to New Orleans for the January trip.
"During the summer, the committee tried to think of ways to expand the service trips. Not every student can go during spring break, or go for several days," she said.
Challenges led to new career goals
Savoie went on her first ASB in 2011 to Camp Summit in Argyle, which provides traditional summer camp activities in the outdoors to children and adults with physical and developmental disabilities. But she said her trips to Covenant House in St. Louis, a shelter for homeless teenagers, changed her career goals.
"I decided I wanted to be a licensed professional counselor and work at a homeless shelter for teens," she says.
Mohammad Khan, a triple major in biological sciences, radio/television/film and Spanish, says ASB trips led to bigger things. After going to a ranch for abused and neglected children in Guthrie, Okla., for his first trip, then going to the Memphis food bank and a Washington, DC, hospice, Khan spent part of last summer in China on a service trip with other UNT students. After graduating, he plans to make documentaries to bring awareness of social issues.
"We went to a small village in Yunnan, China to teach English at a primary school and to demonstrate clean water filtration and sanitation," Khan says, "We went as UNT students and came back as social change agents."