Students choose service over seashells

The New Orleans team, the homeowners, and the St. Bernard Project volunteers on the deck the ASB group built. [Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Cirincione ‘16]

ASB participants spend week off focusing on social issues and volunteering

While many students slept in late at home or relaxed on the beach for Spring Break, two groups of Lafayette students participated in Alternative School Break trips, spending their time off working to help others and educating themselves about different social issues.

ASB is a program offered at Lafayette that allows groups of students to travel to another community and work with a specific social issue. Four trips took place over Interim this past January, and two took place last week over Spring Break.

“It’s quite an experience because usually most Spring Breaks are a little different. They’re usually either restful or people go out and have fun,” Team Leader Bowden Saunders ‘17 said.

Saunders led the Spring Break trip, “FITing In: Childhood Obesity and Self-Esteem” at an elementary school in North Carolina. The team worked with Playworks, a nonprofit organization that creates positive environments for safe and healthy recesses at low-income schools.

Twelve people attended the trip, including Learning Partner Tim Uhrich, Assistant Director of Residence Life. A Learning Partner is a faculty member from Lafayette who participates with the students on the trip.

The other Spring Break trip, “Life After Disaster: Disaster Relief”, led by Hannah Goldstein ’17, traveled to New Orleans and worked with the St. Bernard’s Project, which helps rebuild homes for people who lost their homes during Hurricane Katrina.

“I didn’t realize how families in New Orleans were still devastated by Hurricane Katrina and to what extent,” Jacqueline Cirincione ‘16 said. “We also did a lot of education after each day of work. We’d go back and watch a movie about Hurricane Katrina.”

The team of 13 included Learning Partner Jennifer Rao, who is an Instructional Technologist at Lafayette. They got to the worksite at 7 a.m. each morning to paint the exterior of a destroyed home and to build the family a new deck.

“The family we worked with was really great,” Cirincione said. “The husband would come out and bake us cookies and fill up our water bottles for us.”

The ASB trip not only connects Lafayette students to one another, but to greater communities.

“It helps students break out of the Lafayette bubble and really get exposed to a different culture and social issue,” ASB President Abby Williams ’15 said.

Oftentimes, that social issue is an area of interest for the team leader of the trip. When students apply to be team leaders, they are able to “identify a social issue that they’re passionate about and research a potential community organization in a location that they choose,” Director of the Landis Community Outreach Center and ASB Club Advisor Amber Zuber said.

ASB, along with the other Landis programs, are unique in that the participants do not simply exemplify volunteerism. The idea of community engagement takes volunteering one step further, and is a “combination of doing the direct service work, engaging in the community, but then also having that education background about some of these social issues,” Zuber said.

The ASB program creates mutually beneficial relationships between Lafayette’s students and faculty and the communities they help.

“It’s an experience that I think everyone should have at least once,” Saunders said. “It kind of brings you more aware of whatever issue you’re going on, and allows you to bring it back to campus and tell others about it.”

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