Thousands of Texas A&M University students will take part in the annual rite of spring for college students around the country by taking trips to the beach or elsewhere for a fun-filled break during the week of March 16-20, but many Aggies will spend their time away from campus working on community service projects instead of partying.
Fifteen students, six staff members and two advisors of MSCC Freshmen In Service and Hosting (FISH) will get their first international service and learning experience at Texas A&M's Casa Verde Center in Costa Rica. These students will assist children at a local school with learning skills and perfecting their own language skills by establishing an English camp. They will also work with the Casa Verde Center by collecting specimens from the local rainforest.
Students in the Cornerstone Program, a learning community in the College of Liberal Arts, will travel to Belgium, where they will conduct research for papers they are writing while there. "Our students will visit Bruges and several other areas, depending on their research focus - Bastogne, Arnhem in The Netherlands, Waterloo and Mons," says Donald Curtis, visiting assistant professor of history.
Several groups of Aggies - known for having a strong tradition of community service - will pay their own way to travel to various places around the country and volunteer their services to those in need by participating in Texas A&M's "Alternative Spring Break."
Alternative Spring Break is just what it sounds like, says Sarah Edwards, the Department of Student Activities adviser to the student organization. It's a fun and adventurous, alcohol- and drug-free alternative to the popular conception of the spring break experience, she explains.
During the week away from school, student-led trips will go to different parts of the country, and each trip will deal with a different social issue.
"What these students accomplish is particularly impressive because they choose to put in a week of intensive labor during a time traditionally set aside for students to relax either at home or on a beach somewhere," Edwards adds."They also make the most of these trips by incorporating an educational component, not just volunteering but also taking the time to become educated about the various social issues at play in each situation."
One group of Aggies will travel to the Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock . The students will volunteer their services at the pediatric health care facility, the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States .
Another group will travel to New Orleans to help with Project Lazarus, a compassionate service helping people with AIDS who can no longer live independently, or whose family can no longer take care of them.
Others will go to Moody Nature Reserve in southeast Georgia. The Nature Conservancy works to safeguard places that are havens for many of Georgia's majestic old-growth forests, rare lilies and animals found nowhere else in the world. Volunteers will assist in trail preparation and maintenance, non-native species removal and planting native species.
Still another group of Aggies will work with Challenge Enterprises of North Florida. Located in Green Cove Springs, the organization works to promote the power and possibilities of people living with disabilities. The Aggies will assist with landscaping and maintenance of adults in the program homes.
In the local community, one group of students will volunteer as counselors for "Mad Science Camp" at the Brazos Valley Children's Museum.
For more on Alternative Spring Break go to http://asb.tamu.edu/node/7 .