Volunteerism, service and community engagement may not be words typically associated with a college student's idea of a "spring break."
However, for those looking for an out-of-the-ordinary experience, the Center for Student Leadership & Community Engagement (CSLCE) is giving students the chance to make a difference this spring break.
According to Tim Leonard, a graduate assistant for community involvement, the CSLCE is offering interested students the opportunity to volunteer locally in the Buffalo area or in post-Katrina New Orleans.
For those interested in staying in Buffalo, "Alternative Spring Break: Give Where You Live" allows 20 students the chance to explore the Western New York area while serving the local community.
"We think it's a unique opportunity for students to get to know the town that they live in," Leonard said. "Many students are Buffalo residents but they have never participated in any of these non-profits and don't even know the different areas of Buffalo. So it's something for them to experience that they wouldn't have [experienced] otherwise."
Daniel Ovadia, a sophomore in the School of Management, participated in the program last year and is a team leader for this year's Alternative Spring Break.
"The Buffalo area offers a lot of not-for-profit experiences that most UB students aren't exposed to," Ovadia said. "Last year we visited a Habitat House; Buffalo City Mission; Vive La Casa, a home for refugees in the area; and a local elementary school."
The program starts on the first Saturday of spring break, March 12, and goes through the following Friday, March 18.
While students may be staying in Buffalo, CSLCE is modeling the alternative spring break so it resembles an out-of-town volunteer experience.
Students who participate in the Buffalo spring break will be bunking in Goodyear Hall and will be bussed to and from local community service sites. For a cost of $50, students will be provided housing, transportation, food and entertainment.
"We stay on South Campus in Goodyear 10 … we convert the lounge and bring in mattresses so we all stay together in one room," Leonard said. "Its kind of like you're at a hostel or something."
Not only are students taken out into the community to volunteer, but they also get to participate in fun evening activities; last year, the group went to a Sabres game. Applications are due Feb. 7 and can be found online at student-affairs.buffalo.edu/leadership/spbreak.php and in the CSLCE office.
"I would encourage students to participate if they are from the Buffalo area or not," Ovadia said. "It's an amazing experience. That's why I'm doing it again this year, so I can pass on the experience to other students.''
For students who want to get out of Buffalo for break, David Dodge, an English major who recently transferred from Genesee Community College, worked with the CSLCE office to create the New Orleans Alternative Spring Break program.
According to Dodge, the idea to form his own program came from a similar program that he participated in at GCC. He is looking for 20 students and a delegation from GCC to rebuild the wetlands and regions of New Orleans that still remain after Katrina.
"This [program] gives students an opportunity to go to a place they have never been before and might not go to otherwise," Dodge said. "Katrina happened Aug. 29 five years ago, and still, parts of New Orleans look like Katrina just happened."
The cost for this program is $400 and covers transportation to and from New Orleans, food, lodging, a concert, and a boat tour of the wetlands. Students participating in the program will leave on March 12 and return on March 20.
"I don't want students to get nervous about the work we would be doing. There is a skills assessment that we will be doing [that] can tell us exactly what they can and cannot do," Dodge said. "But no matter what the student is capable of, there will be something that they can do."
Students interested in participating should visit the CSLCE office and apply by Feb. 1. Applicants will then be screened by Dodge and Amy Wilson, Associate Director for CSLCE, and will be interviewed prior to acceptance.
For more information on the Buffalo and New Orleans ASB opportunities, visit the CSLCE office in 235 Student Union or online at student-affairs.buffalo.edu/leadership/spbreak.php.
Additional reporting by Michael Tyson.