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April 13, 2015
By Alexandra Mortallaro, media relations assistant
Twenty Northwest Missouri State University students impacted the lives of New Orleans and Puerto Rico residents while volunteering with Northwest’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) organization March 23-27.
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.
This year, students traveled to New Orleans to work with the United Saints Recovery Project. The project involved demolishing a fire-damaged house, painting the exterior of a house, working at a community garden and rehabilitating a railing at the volunteer facility where the students stayed.
Students who traveled to Puerto Rico worked at the Boys and Girls Club, picked up trash on the beach and worked at Cabezas de San Juan Environmental preserve.
“I am glad that Northwest’s Alternative Spring Break group and I were able to help and make a difference in New Orleans,” ASB President Danielle Hogan, a senior elementary education major from Richmond, Mo., said. “It was really devastating to see parts of the city that are still in despair from Hurricane Katrina. Going to a place like New Orleans helped me remember how blessed I am, and that makes me want to give back and help others more.”
Bobbie Patten, a senior psychology and sociology major from Orient, Iowa, said interacting with children at the Boys and Girls Club of Puerto Rico was a highlight for her.
“Even though there was a language barrier, we were still able to communicate and interact with the children in other ways,” Patten said. “Because of this trip, I have even more respect for our beautiful environment and for protecting it. I will be able to take this experience into my future career by being able to better communicate and relate with people from other cultures.”
ASB chose Puerto Rico and New Orleans as this year’s destinations because of the immense need for service in those areas.
“Alternative Spring Break allows students to have real-life experiences dealing with communities that are suffering from many different social justices issues,” ASB Advisor Amy Nally said. “Students often realize how good they actually have it, living in a safe environment, having the opportunity to go to college and many other things we often take for granted. Students come back changed, and often I hear the student say their experience was life-changing. Having the opportunity to provide students with these experiences is always rewarding, and I am happy to give them the opportunity to develop outside the classroom.”
Past ASB trips have taken students to work in soup kitchens, clothing banks and food pantries in New York; work with Community Collaborations International in Niceville, Fla.; and restore the ecosystem affected by the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill along with painting houses and mowing lawns in Greenville, S.C.
Students interested in participating in ASB must fill out an application and maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. They must also complete 20 hours of community service.
“I am so thankful to be given so many wonderful opportunities here at Northwest,” Patten said. “Being a part of the Alternative Spring Break organization was such a good experience because I worked with and got to know a great group of students. This organization gave me the opportunity to make friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468