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Make a Difference over Spring Break

Several ASB trips still have openings

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Still looking for something to do during spring break next month? Consider joining one of BU’s Alternative Service Breaks (ASB) trips.

Founded in 1988 and overseen by BU’s Community Service Center, ASB offers students the opportunity to travel to dozens of locations across the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada for a week of volunteering with nonprofits working in focus areas from public health, homelessness, and housing to animals, education, and LGBTQ+.

Registration for this year’s trips began in November, but 5 of the 30 trips still have spots available. These spaces are limited and registration closes February 27, so act fast. Prices for the trips range from $375 to $435, and scholarships are available for Pell Grant–eligible students or students who can demonstrate significant financial hardship. The cost covers transportation, food, and housing (typically provided by the host organizations).

Among the trips still open is the one to Nashville, Tenn., which is among the longest running ASB excursions. There, students will work with people with disabilities at United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee, building wheelchair ramps so those with limited mobility can remain in their homes.

Another trip still seeking volunteers is to the rural city of Crossville, Tenn., to work with the Cumberland Trails Conference, building up part of a 300-mile-long foot trail running along or near the eastern edge of the scenic Cumberland Plateau. During an eco-friendly trip to Lake Metroparks, Ohio, students will pitch in on a variety of environmental projects, such as removal of invasive species, environmental cleanup, and working in a wildlife rehabilitation center. And volunteers traveling to Milwaukee, Wisc., will promote environmental education and protection in the city under the auspices of the Urban Ecology Center.

Handy with a hammer and a saw? Consider joining the trip to Louisville, Ky., where volunteers will work on home repair efforts in Louisville’s West End with Hand in Hand Ministries, which provides safe housing, health care, and education programs to vulnerable communities. This is the first time ASB has partnered with Hand in Hand Ministries.

Last year’s ASB had more than 400 participants—volunteers, program managers, coordinators, chaperones, and committee chairs.

Besides the opportunity to give back, ASB trips are a way to meet new people, travel to new places, and open yourself to new ideas, say program veterans.

“There’s something so magical about the bonds that are made with the people you drive across the country with,” says Ellie Hitt (CAS’17), one of this year’s program managers. As a freshman, she volunteered on a trip to Atlanta, with the expectation of meeting more people. It was a life-changing experience. “From then on, I couldn’t shake the ASB fever. In both Atlanta and the next year in Orland, Maine, my mind was opened in such valuable ways,” Hitt says. “I decided to apply for program manager, because I wanted to ensure that each individual coordinator, volunteer, and chaperone had the opportunity to enjoy that same experience.”

Fellow program manager Chris Zielinski (ENG’18) first participated in ASB freshman year, traveling to San Juan, Puerto Rico. “My coordinators that year were incredible mentors and inspired me to apply to be a coordinator myself the following year. I ended up coordinating Atlanta last year with a new community partner, Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless, and it was one of the best experiences I could have imagined,” he says. “I’m still close with all of the volunteers from that trip. All of them are involved in ASB again this year, so that kind of retention rate really speaks to the program. I applied to be program manager so that I could give back what ASB has given me: opportunities to grow personally, professionally, and socially.”

Alternative Service Breaks is March 4 to 12, 2017. Registration information can be found here and scholarship information here.

Mara Sassoon can be reached at msassoon@bu.edu.

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