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.
“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.
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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