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 Tuesday, March 9, 2010 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Students will spend spring break helping others
by Elizabeth Lock, University Communications

About 150 University of Colorado at Boulder students will spend their spring break vacations in service-learning programs helping people manage chronic disease through nutrition, serving as youth camp counselors teaching kids about the environment or taking part in one of eight other projects around the country.

The students will participate in trips organized by Alternative Breaks, a program of CU-Boulder's Volunteer Resource Center. Volunteers will be traveling in groups of 10 to 15 to locations such as Tennessee to build trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and New Orleans to volunteer with a Hurricane Katrina relief organization.

Before leaving, the Alternative Breaks groups will take part in pre-trip training to learn about the issues they will be addressing. "We want to make sure we go into communities with an awareness of the issues," said Allie Mills, Alternative Breaks student coordinator. "Students have a more meaningful experience and have a better connection to the people they are serving when they have information to supplement what they are experiencing first-hand."

Mills will help lead a trip this year to New York City to prepare and deliver meals to people living with HIV and AIDS. Her first Alternative Break trip was four years ago when she went to New Orleans to rebuild houses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"Alternative Breaks is an eye-opening experience that immerses students in a different way of life and connects people across the country," said Mills. "It has made me realize that even one person can make a difference. That is an incredible feeling."

Another CU-Boulder group will interact with modern indigenous lifestyles through visits to Navajo and Zuni nations in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The students will work on a number of efforts, many based outdoors, according to the needs of the tribes they visit and also will be part of lectures and conversations about local issues.

"Alternative Breaks is a growing program that prepares students to step outside of their comfort zone and work with underserved communities," said Jen Ross, associate director of the Volunteer Resource Center. "Students return to campus empowered to implement change for social justice both in continued work with the communities they came to know over spring break and in the situations they encounter thereafter."

Alternative Breaks recently announced a new partnership with the Comunidad Connect organization in Nicaragua and a trip planned May 14-26. Comunidad Connect unites local and foreign communities through sustainable development projects such as improving recycling systems, building financial literacy and bringing people together through sports and other cultural events.

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