While some students do not make travel plans until a month before spring break, sophomore Trinh Tran has been preparing for her vacation since September. She is not going to Mexico or Jamaica, but instead to Mississippi.
Tran plans to work with abused and neglected children at the Sunshine Shelter. Tran and 10 other GW students will fix playgrounds for children in the Natchez, Miss., area as part of this year’s Alternative Spring Break Program.
“We’re actually going to be staying at the church,” she said. “That way we can get more involved with the children.”
This year, 37 students will participate in Alternative Spring Break, about the same number as last year, said Carolyn Vasques Scalera, assistant director of the Student Activities Center.
“The program is student-led and staff-supported,” she said.
This is the second year SAC has sponsored alternative spring break programs. Last year, students volunteered in a battered women’s shelter in Alabama, worked with the homeless in New York, repaired homes in West Virginia and provided trail maintenance for the National Park Service in Tennessee.
A group of 10 will travel to the Folklife Center in Pipestem, W. Va., to repair homes for the elderly and disabled in rural communities.
“We don’t want these people to have to worry about leaky roofs anymore,” said senior Stephanie Anderson, a group leader. “I wanted to do something worthwhile and remember it. Cancun isn’t really something I would do, so I decided to lead one of the trips.”
Another group of five students will head to Mayville, Mich., to prepare an outdoor center for educational programming and recreation for people with disabilities at The Fowler Center. Team leader Taryn Perkins said she chose the site because it “seemed like a good cause.”
GW is also sending 11 students to Pittsboro, N.C., to help with Habitat for Humanity and work at a camp for autistic youth.
Each of the four trips has two undergraduate team leaders and a faculty member.
The trips cost about $300 per person, but Scalera said some groups lowered the cost through fundraising.
Tran said her group sold Krispy Kreme doughnuts and traveled door-to-door asking for donations.
“We’ve been doing a lot of fundraising and only have a couple more hundred to raise in order to reach our goal,” she said.
Anderson said her team also went door-to-door in residence halls.
“It turned out to be really beneficial to get the word out on the program too,” she said.
Sophomore Jennifer Weck, who first heard about the programs from a poster, will spend spring break in West Virginia.
“I want to experience something that’s a little more thought- provoking than sitting around watching TV all the time,” she said. “It’s also a chance to open your eyes and learn about a different culture.”