Alternative Service Breaks let students help others while away from school

There are few things college students hold more dearly than their breaks from school. Breaks give students a chance to step back from their academic workload, visit family or plan a getaway with friends to recharge their batteries.

For some UNT students, the preferred method for recharging while school’s out is by helping others through the Alternative Service Breaks (ASB) program offered by the Center for Leadership and Service.

The mission of the ASB program is to raise awareness of social issues through education, direct service and reflection by offering students low-cost, week-long trips to various locations across the U.S. where they can volunteer with non-profit organizations in need of assistance.

Nicole Constantine, an ecology for environmental science senior, has spent her last two spring breaks volunteering on ASB trips. She says her first trip to New Orleans to work with Common Ground Relief to restore wetlands along the Gulf Coast was especially memorable for her.

“My favorite part was getting into a bayou and planting vegetation to grow the wetlands,” Constantine says. “After planting we were covered in mud and had a huge mud fight. After my first ASB trip I can’t imagine any other way of spending my break than by giving back and leaving the week feeling like I’ve made a difference.”

That’s why she spent the following spring break volunteering with Rise Against Hunger in Kansas City, Missouri, where she and other students helped package meals for people suffering from malnutrition all over the world.

Andrea Masamba, a recent public relations graduate, spent her first ASB trip with Something New in Selma, Alabama, volunteering as a tutor and helping clean and organize local elementary schools. The trip also allowed her to visit multiple historic sites of the Civil Rights Movement and was so impactful that she volunteered as a Lead Site Leader for her next trip over the following winter break.

In January 2017 she worked with Our House homeless shelter in Little Rock, Arkansas as a Lead Site Leader, where students volunteered in the child care facility and afterschool program. As a student leader, she says that although the trip didn’t always go according to plan, the impact the volunteers had on each other was especially rewarding.

“In a few short days we went from strangers to a family who comfortably shared our differences in race, religion, upbringing and more to promote cultural understanding and make for a priceless experience,” says Masamba. “My ASB trips gave me an amazing perspective and life-changing experiences that I will forever be grateful for.”

Jordan Hall, a former undergraduate studying human development and family sciences and now graduate student studying educational psychology, has volunteered on three spring break ASB trips and one weekend trip.

During spring break of her freshman year she worked with SAMMinistries in San Antonio and went on a weekend trip to Moore, Oklahoma, to assist with tornado relief. She returned to Oklahoma her junior year to work with a Head Start program with the Cherokee Nation, where she worked with kids and assisted with property maintenance.

Hall made a third trip to Oklahoma with ASB as a Lead Site Leader last spring where she served as a counselor for Camp Fire Heart in Oklahoma City to help kids learn to canoe, rock climb and generally fall in love with the outdoors. Her group also spent a day clearing out an entire trail on the property, which was then named in their honor by the camp.

She says her time with the ASB program has given her some of his favorite memories from UNT.

“I wanted to make a difference and serve in a community that is not my own during my spring breaks,” says Hall. “I find complete and utter joy when I volunteer, so ASB is an organization through which I have truly found myself and my passions.”

The 2018 Alternative Service Breaks will take place from Jan. 6-13 during winter break and March 10-17 during spring break.

There will be five winter break trips focused on:

  • Disaster recovery
  • Domestic and family violence
  • Youth and homelessness
  • Immigration
  • Gender and sexuality

Apply for a winter Alternative Service Break here by Oct. 4.

The 11 spring break trips will focus on:

  • Children’s health
  • Youth and education
  • Environment and sustainability
  • Urban poverty
  • Foster care for children
  • Substance abuse and mental health
  • Hunger relief
  • Human trafficking
  • Refugee community development
  • Animal welfare
  • Global hunger and poverty

Apply for a spring Alternative Service Break here by Nov. 3.