Spring Break is usually the time college students bask in the sunshine on Florida beaches or hit the ski slopes in Colorado.
But some students at the University of Rochester take a different approach to the weeklong break in mid-March. Instead of using the time as a retreat, students in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering will help rebuild and strengthen other communities.
This year, members of a new group called Rotaract will be packing up and heading to rural Kentucky for the first time. Twelve students will be working with the Lend-A-Hand Center, which offers health care services and community outreach to low-income residents in Knox County. They will be helping out in the center, working on its farm, and touring the community throughout the break, which runs from March 10 to 18.
Juniors Leigh Carroll and Joe Stadolnik, both members of Rotaract, a campus group supported by Brighton Rotary, are organizing the trip.
"None of us know anything about this area, but it will be fun to work in a rural setting," Carroll said. "I think many people think poverty is only in the inner city," Carroll said.
Other groups participating in Alternative Spring Break include a group of 11 students from the Catholic Newman Community. They will spend time working at Corpus Christi Neighborhood Center and Father Charles Hall School in Baltimore. They will learn about urban poverty and other city issues as well as tour historical locations in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Hillel, the University's Jewish student association, will be going to New Orleans, La. The group of 12 students will be gutting homes—knocking down drywall, tearing out carpeting, and taking the homes down to their structure. The trip also has a cultural component, in which the group tries to tackles some of the issues using traditional Jewish texts. Tours of the area and interacting with neighbors is also part of the experience, which is shared by hundreds of students from Hillel International who represent other universities.
"Beyond the memories, which are certainly powerful, this will create a sense of community when we get back to campus," said Joel Kleinberg, program director of Hillel of Rochester Area Colleges.
Six undergraduates will represent the University's chapter of Habitat for Humanity in Orange Park, Fla., just outside Jacksonville. The group will be working with Clay County Habitat for Humanity.
To cover the cost of the trips, each group had to do fundraising, such as the traditional Newman Community pancake breakfast, or bake sales, luncheons, and even Krispy Kreme donut sales in Wilson Commons.
For more information, contact Joel Kleinberg of Hillel at firstname.lastname@example.org; Peter Dwyer of the Newman Community at email@example.com; Leigh Carroll of Rotaract at firstname.lastname@example.org, and April Rose of Habitat for Humanity at email@example.com.