Spring break used for charitable trips

By Lauren Dielman

Instead of sitting at home this spring break, fifty NIU students will have the opportunity to go to Washington D.C.; Newark, N.J.; Niceville, Fla.; and Kissimmee, Fla. through the Alternative Spring Break program.

Becky Harlow, assistant director for Student Involvement and Leadership Development, said some trips will focus more on manual labor while others will focus more on community service.

Harlow said there is no broad theme for all the trips, but they are “constructed around different social issues.”

Students going to Newark will work with the Boys and Girls Club of America, students going to Washington D.C. will deal with hunger and homelessness issues, students going to Niceville will deal with disaster relief and cleaning up the recent oil spill and students going to Kissimmee will work with terminally ill children.

“The trips are all different because we’d like to have as many options for students as possible,” Harlow said.

The locations for the trips are chosen by student coordinators called site leaders. Twelve options are initially chosen, and the list is then narrowed down to four.

“We say, ‘If you could change the world in one way, what would it be?’” Harlow said. “The options are chosen based on whatever the students happen to be passionate about.”

This is the first year Khaled Ismail, junior political science major, will participate in Alternative Spring Break.

“I’m graduating in December and I’ve never done anything for spring break before and it sounded like a good idea,” Ismail said. “A lot of my friends are going and it should be fun.”

Ismail said students participating in Alternative Spring Break picked their top choices from the four options and he received his first choice, Washington D.C.

“I’m interested to see a different scene,” Ismail said. “And we even get a free day to go to museums.”

This is the third year James Buikema, senior political science major, will participate in Alternative Spring Break. Buikema is a site leader this year.

“We get to plan where we’re going, how we get there, and we pick the students that go,” Buikema said.

Buikema said he is eager to begin work in Niceville, Florida.

“I’m looking forward to getting down there and working and making it a better place for the animals,” Buikema said.

Most Alternative Spring Break trips will go from March 10 to March 17. The cost is $550 a person, and includes food, lodging and transportation.

Although all openings are filled right now, Harlow said sites and applications are ready at move-in day and applications are due around Halloween.