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Alternative Spring Break Registration This Sunday

Program offers new locations, BUniverse contest

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Students from last year’s Alternative Spring Break trip to Manhattan’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

Parissa Salimian spent her spring break last year volunteering with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a nonprofit organization that offers HIV prevention information, care, and legal aid. She was one of more than 300 students participating in BU’s Alternative Spring Break program, which places students in volunteer programs around the country for a week each March.

Salimian (CAS’12) says the trip proved to be a life-changing experience. She has since become involved with qualitative research at BU on ethnic minority women with, or at risk of developing, HIV. “The trip gave a face to something I had only read about up to that point,” she says.

The college junior was so impressed with her experience last year that she plans to sign up for this year’s ASB, which is run by BU’s Community Service Center. The program’s goal is for volunteers to learn about social issues, develop leadership skills, and form strong bonds with their trip mates. All students are eligible.

To participate in this year’s program, students must register online this Sunday, January 30, beginning at 8 a.m.

“I would encourage others to sign up for ASB so they can do something productive with their spring breaks rather than party or do nothing,” Salimian says. “I think it is a wonderful opportunity to serve the community while bonding with a new group of people.”

Now in its 24th year, ASB offers students 36 trips to choose from. Projects range from volunteering in animal shelters to rebuilding damaged homes. This year the program has 317 volunteer positions available.

In Kincaid, W.Va., volunteers will work at the Southern Appalachian Labor School, rebuilding and repairing homes; in Nashville, they will work with the United Cerebral Palsy group of Middle Tennessee installing wheelchair ramps at homes; and in New Orleans, students will work at the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Students travel either by car or by plane to their assigned project, depending on the distance. Driving trips consist of 12 volunteers, with group members sharing driving responsibilities. Trips by plane this year include Seattle, Puerto Rico, Montana, Killeen, Tex., and Flagstaff, Ariz. Those trips are made up of groups of nine student volunteers. Additionally, each trip has two student coordinators and a staff or faculty chaperone, all of whom have already been chosen.

“Many of these locations are places ASB has been going to for a number of years, but there are some new trips added,” explains ASB public relations chair Chrisann Papera (SED’11). Among the new projects: working with the Homeless and Runaway Street Outreach Center in Des Moines, Iowa, which serves LGBT youth; volunteering with the Montana Food Bank Network in Missoula, Mont.; assisting staffers at Philabundance, an organization that delivers fresh produce to marginalized people in Philadelphia; and working with the Grand Canyon Trust in Flagstaff, where volunteers will camp on a Native American reservation and help with upkeep and maintenance.

“Over the summer the program managers reassess, contact all the sites to see if they still need our help, and research new sites,” Papera explains. “We even contact other universities to see where they go, and if they know of any other programs that need help.”

Registration is similar to signing up for classes on the Student Link. On Sunday morning, students should go to the CSC website promptly at 8 a.m., when the site opens, to improve their chances of enrolling in the program of their choice; they will have five minutes to fill in their contact information and rank their trip preferences (trips are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis). If a student’s top trip isn’t available, they may go back and select another one. At the time of registration, students must put down a $175 deposit.

The cost for driving trips is $375, and flying trips cost $675; both include food, housing, and transportation for the week. Students may pay by credit or debit card. A few need-based scholarships are available to offset costs, and there is also a payment plan so that students can pay for the trip over time.

Kirzia Steele (CAS’12) is one of this year’s student coordinators. This is her first time participating in ASB, and her trip has already been assigned. She will travel to Horse Cave, Ky. to restore caves with the American Cave Conservation Association. “I’ve never even worked in a cave before, but I’m pretty excited for the new experience,” she says with a laugh.

“I definitely encourage other students to sign up for ASB. Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself and makes you more grounded,” Steele says. “I think in college there’s a chance that you get caught up with a lot of trivial things, and I think volunteering on ASB can really make you realize what’s important.”

This year, for the first time in ASB’s history, BUniverse, BU’s video repository, is holding a video contest, where participating students can submit self-made videos chronicling their sign-up, travel, site work, or post-trip reflections.

“With this contest, we hope to capture moments from every group that will inspire others to get involved in this significant experience,” says Nelia Ponte, director of BUniverse and content management at BU. “BUniverse is meant to broadcast students’ messages and archive their experiences.”

Videos don’t have to be fancy, Ponte says, and can be shot on the go with an iPhone, a flip cam, or a video camera.

Students can upload their videos to BUniverse up to a week after returning and use the tag “ASB2011.” Eligible students will be entered in a random drawing for an iPad after all the videos are posted. Other prizes will also be offered.

Sign up for ASB here on Sunday, January 30, beginning at 8 a.m. For more information, contact the ASB program managers at altbreak@bu.edu or call 617-353-4710.

Don’t forget to keep BU Today updated with tweets from the road using the hashtag #buasb11.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Alternative Spring Break Registration This Sunday

  • Anonymous on 01.28.2011 at 7:20 am

    My ASB experience was life-changing. I don’t think any other thing I did at BU was quite as rewarding, challenging, inspiring…I could go on. Every BU undergraduate should participate at least once. I wish enough trips were offered to make this happen.

    ASB ’08

  • Anonymous on 01.29.2011 at 2:58 pm

    Online? We had to line up overnight!

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