Alternative Spring Break: Students Opt for Service over Sunbathing


Sleep, binge-watching and vacation are a few words that come to mind when one mentions the much anticipated week between midterms and finals, the week when all responsibilities tend to slip away and, with a little luck, the sun comes out after weeks of harsh, frigid temperatures. That week, of course, is Spring Break.

But what if students chose an alternate route this year, and instead of packing bags for a week long trip to the beach, they instead opted for a four-day volunteer experience called “Alternative Spring Break” that involved everything from picking up trash on a greenway to reading books to children at a local elementary school?

MTSU’s Office of Student Organizations and Service sponsors annual Alternative Spring Break trips in various communities across the United States. However, instead of traveling to another city, this year’s group of students spent four days volunteering in a familiar place: Rutherford County.

Students Rebecca Clippard, Hermon Phuntling, Brandon Lewis and Jackson Jones help build a home with Habitat for Humanity on March 11, 2015 as part of Alternative Spring Break. (MTSU Sidelines/Dylan Skye Aycock)
Students Rebecca Clippard, Hermon Phuntling, Brandon Lewis and Jackson Jones help build a home with Habitat for Humanity on March 11, 2015 as part of Alternative Spring Break. (MTSU Sidelines/Submitted)

“We started off the week by cleaning up the area around Murfreesboro Greenway,” said Brandon Loso, a graduate assistant for MTSU’s Leadership and Service organization. “Each day has offered different types of volunteer opportunities in our own community that some students may have never experienced without this program.”

Aside from clearing off trash and debris at Murfreesboro Greenway, a system that consists of the Stones River, Lytle Creek and Gateway trails, students visited Buchanan Elementary School to work with students in kindergarten through 2nd grade on their english, reading, math and science skills and helped teachers prepare their classrooms.

“It was interesting to see college students sit down and read to a class of elementary students,” Loso said. “A lot of the week’s activities involved the group to spend the day outdoors, so that showed them a different kind of work.”

The next day students traded books for a tool box while helping Habitat for Humanity build a house in the area, which in turn allowed students to see the end result of a full day of work. On the final day, students spent the day at Stone River Battlefield and helped rangers mulch trails and remove invasive plants.

Freshman Mass Communication student Hermon Phuntling and Sophomore Liberal Arts student Rebecca Clippard help mulch trails at Stone River Battlefield on March 12, 2015 as part of Alternative Spring Break. The annual program allow students to volunteer in the community instead of going on vacation. (MTSU Sidelines/Dylan Skye Aycock)
Freshman Mass Communication student Hermon Phuntling and Sophomore Liberal Arts student Rebecca Clippard help mulch trails at Stone River Battlefield on March 12, 2015 as part of Alternative Spring Break. The annual program allow students to volunteer in the community instead of going on vacation. (MTSU Sidelines/Dylan Skye Aycock)

The Alternative Spring Break program isn’t unique to MTSU — hundreds of universities participate in the event each year across the U.S. The services provide students with an opportunity to make a difference, both big and small, in the lives of others on a local, national or global scale. By volunteering, team members take away a sense of community and a better understanding of the world around them.

“It’s been a great week, and I can tell this group of students has really enjoyed working together and for the community,” said 22-year-old October Henson, programming assistant for Student Leadership and Services.

She says that even though hardly anyone in the group shared the same major or concentration, everyone was able to find commonalities as the week went by.

“Of course it’s great to see the group working hard and projects coming together,” Henson said. “But it’s also been great to see friendships form along the way.”

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1 Comment

  1. OAIMTSU
    May 4, 2015
    Reply

    I think the “Alternative Spring Break” is a great idea and a good way for students to contribute in their society. It was a big step for the students to give up their vacation time and instead choose to help out in their community. I have never heard of the annual alternative spring break and I have been a student at MTSU for two years now. I do not usually have anything doing but work and sleep during spring break. Since I do not go on vacation for spring break, this would have been a good alternative for me if I knew about it. I love reading to children, maybe not picking up trash but I would not mind doing that as part of the activity. This is a good opportunity for the students to meet new people from their schools who they may otherwise, not have met. I think it is also a good way to encourage team work. It was so close to home that the students will not feel like they are far away or missing out on something. They will still have time to do what they wanted after the day’s work since they did not have to travel out for this. This is an activity I will look into being a part of next year.

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