Students consider alternative spring break as viable option

By James Maahs

While spring break is a long way off, some students are already making plans. For those that are, they might want to consider getting involved in the Alternative Spring Break Program.

The Alternative Spring Break Program is sponsored by Student Involvement and Leadership Development and offers students the opportunity to participate in service projects at different locations across the country during the Spring Break holiday. Locations for this year’s program include Kentucky, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

“It started at NIU in spring 2009 when a group of students traveled to Galveston, Texas to assist with the clean-up efforts related to 2008’s Hurricane Ike,” said Becky Harlow, assistant director of Huskie Family Connections and Volunteerism, which is part of Student Involvement and Leadership Development. “Since then the program has expanded in student participation and destinations.”

The program is open to all NIU students who are enrolled full-time and have good academic and judicial standing with the university. Any student that is interested can fill out an application online on the Student Involvement and Leadership Development website; applications are due by Oct. 29.

Harlow said students with any interest in helping the community should get involved with the program.

“Students should get involved with Alternative Spring Break because it’s so different from any other community service project,” Harlow said. “It’s a truly life-changing experience because it can open a student’s eyes to what’s going on in the world around him/her, challenging that student to really think about their role in society.”

Harlow added students see a lot of changes in their own self-awareness and self-image because of this program.

“They experience an alteration in how they view their place in the world and how they themselves can make an impact,” Harlow said.

Rebecca Welker, Alternative Spring Break site leader, is in her second year with the program.

“I wanted to do something over spring break and I saw some information for the Alternative Spring Break Program posted on a bulletin board around campus,” Welker said. “I am very interested in philanthropy and service work in general so I thought combining the two would be a lot of fun, and it was.”

Welker said she learned a lot of different things since joining the program.

“I learned about myself,” Welker said. “I learned that service work is something I will definitely want to incorporate into my life for the rest of my life.”

She recommends the Alternative Spring Break Program to everyone.

“I would recommend this to anyone–especially freshmen–who are trying to meet some new people,” Welker said. “If service is one of your passions, dedicating one week with the same group of people and focusing on the same issues is definitely something I would recommend to anyone.”

Harlow said fundraising opportunities will be available this month for students basing their decision to join on the $550 program fees.

“We know a lot of people are sitting on the fence about participating because of the money involved,” Harlow said. “We really want to stress these fundraising opportunities so that the dollar amount isn’t so intimidating.”