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OU students travel and volunteer through Alternative Spring Break

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
OU students travel and volunteer through Alternative Spring Break
By Katie Land, news editor

OU students volunteered in Jonestown, Mississippi over spring break.
Each year, many Oakland University students choose to spend their spring vacation by volunteering in a meaningful way, through the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program.

ASB provides opportunities for students to engage in drug and alcohol free community service projects in locations across the United States. This year, 37 OU students joined the more than 36,000 students across the nation who participate in an alternative break each year.

“Alternative Spring Breaks are a great opportunity for students to learn about a new geographical area in the U.S., learn about a social issue and engage in strong, direct service,” said Tiffany Sims, ASB advisor. “ASB has had a huge impact on my life. It allows students to do something real with their spring break.”

This February, the three groups set out to different states and with different missions, but brought the same goal.

Nine OU students travelled to Spartanburg, South Carolina to work in the classrooms of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind. Leading the trip was Sims, whose group was made up of students majoring in elementary education, psychology, physical therapy and even marketing.

Alternative breaks offer a positive and meaningful travel experience.
The students volunteered in the classrooms, assisted with afterschool programs and worked with the track team during the week. They experienced communication barriers, delved into deaf or blind culture, and many were able to learn some sign language as well.

ASB participant Christina Shabo prefers to utilize her spring break by working rather than vacationing.

“Alternative spring breaks help you find a far deeper satisfaction than just taking a vacation,” she said. “While laying out in Cancun may give your brain and body a rest, when the week is over, you will return home in pretty much the same position you were in before. With alternative spring breaks, you are gaining life long skills, friendships and the wholesome feeling of making a difference in the world.”

Krista Bajoka advised the trip to Jonestown, Mississippi through the Agape University Ministry, one of Oakland’s student organizations. Her 10 students volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, doing construction and work on four different homes.

“The trip was heart-warming, inspirational, and exhausting,” Bajoka said. “However, it was well worth it. It was so incredible to see and meet a group of young students who were so eager and willing to work as hard as they did for people they didn't even know and be hungry for more the next day.”

The students learned and implemented a variety of projects, from cutting and laying tile to installing new kitchen cabinets and counter tops to building a shed.

“These trips are important because they remind us of how fortunate we are to have what we have,” said Jessica Tingey, a student who volunteered in Jonestown. “It's a positive environment that makes students feel great, especially after seeing what we can truly accomplish when taken out of our comfort zones.”

Typically, students spend between $300-500 to participate in an ASB trip, and many fundraising opportunities are available.

For more information about ASB, view the website at oakland.edu/asb.