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April 13, 2011
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Ask a college student how they spent their spring break. Some may reply that it was a week of relaxation on a warm sandy beach with a drink in hand. For 28 Northwest Missouri State University students, it was a week of volunteering.
The members of Northwest's Alternative Spring Break student organization spent the week of March 19-26 working with Community Collaborations International in Niceville, Fla., where they participated in several community-based projects associated with restoring the coastal ecosystem affected by last summer's Gulf Coast oil spill.
ASB annually gives Northwest students the opportunity to participate in a week of service-learning and volunteering within a different environment. The mission of the organization is to progressively improve the experience of true service-learning for Northwest students and successfully incorporate classroom learning in real world situations.
"Alternative Spring Break is a great way to volunteer with others that share a similar interest," said Justin Jones, a senior geography major from Stanberry, who participated in this year's trip. "This organization allows individuals to get to know themselves at a deeper level. I was able to learn so much more about myself, working with non-profit organizations, the environment and other Northwest Students."
The group is led by Amy Nally, Northwest's director of volunteer, service learning and civic engagement, who noted the project yields strong bonds among the students who participate, in addition to unique cultural experiences.
"Giving students the opportunity to make an impact on a community, experience a different culture, step out of their comfort zone, meet new friends and gain leadership skills is a reward within itself," Nally said.
During their first day in Florida, the student volunteers cleared brush and dead trees from land recently donated to Habitat for Humanity. The land will eventually be turned into a residential neighborhood. In a different location on day two, the student volunteers were tasked with bagging up to 50 pounds of fossilized oysters to be used for building a coastal reef to prevent shoreline erosion.
On their final day the Northwest students jumped in the Choctawhatchee Bay and walked about one mile in knee-deep water to reach a barge carrying the fossilized oyster bags. Within about four hours the students unloaded thousands of pounds of fossilized oysters and helped build a reef.
ASB is more than just volunteering; it is also about building a sense of community within a team, students say. Though their spring break experience may sound unappealing to some college students, the Northwest students who participate in ASB wouldn't want it another way.
"Alternative Spring Break is not a ‘normal' spring break, but after participating in ASB for four years, I know that I would never trade my experiences with ASB for a ‘normal' one," said Nicole Jay, a senior elementary education major from Filley, Neb., and ASB vice president. "There is no better feeling in the world then getting to see how you have helped so many communities and touched the lives of so many people."
Founded in 2006, ASB focuses on projects involving environmental and disaster relief, Habitat for Humanity and humanitarianism. ASB previously has provided disaster relief after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, La., and partnered with Give Kids the World to help children with life-threatening illnesses in Kissimmee, Fla. The organization's 2010 trip to the Dominican Republic to work with Orphanage Outreach was the organization's first outside the United States.
ASB's service-learning trips are paid completely by fund-raising projects throughout the year.
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468