• Laura Kakalecz (CAS’15)

    Laura Kakalecz (CAS’15) Profile

  • Brittany Schwartz (CAS’13)

    Brittany Schwartz (CAS’13) Profile

Comments & Discussion

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There are 35 comments on Alternative Spring Breaks: Reading, Pennsylvania

  1. As a person who grew up just outside of Reading, PA and had family who worked in the city, I find this as appalling as I do hilarious. This just shows how little thought goes into these “volunteer” trips. Planting gardens and trees in the good side of Reading isn’t going to stop the nearly daily shootings, the drug deals that happen in broad daylight, feed the many homeless, or help stop the rampant gang problem. Maybe instead of prettying up the nice side, they should focus on creating drug education and after school programs to help kids find things to entertain themselves that don’t include gangs or drugs.

    1. Your comment sheds light, sadly, on the entire ASB Program. Privileged BU kids go to parts of town that are “safe” for them to do “service,” they hang out for a while, pick up a piece of garbage or two, and drive back to Boston.

      As a several-year veteran of ASB, both as a volunteer and as a coordinator, I have to say I am sourly disappointed at the lack of social justice-orientation that goes into planning the program. I don’t quite understand how BU can call itself an institution of higher education when absolutely no educational component with any substance goes into it “service projects.”

      1. You clearly didn’t understand ASB correctly because I have been both a volunteer and coordinator and ASB is a program that teaches hundreds of BU students how they can make a difference and why it is important. Yes, in one week it is hard to feel like you are making a huge difference, but that one week both creates lasting friendships and teaches us what we can do back in Boston and around the country to work towards a better society.

        You also are being completely disrespectful to the wonderful coordinators who wrote this article and you are the only people shedding any kind of negative light on the ASB program.

        Hundreds of hours of work are put into this program and you are incredibly rude to say that it lacks substance and education. I feel bad for you and I am so sorry that you didn’t understand the point of ASB during your work with the program.

    2. This is an incredibly uninformed and ignorant comment. Improving drug and gang problems is much more complicated than just starting an after school program. It is a major public health problem that requires policy changes and upstream interventions, and could in no capacity be accomplished in one week by individual level service. The community service that is done by ASB volunteers, however, is incredibly meaningful for those involved in the service and those who benefit from it. If you don’t think it makes a difference, that is because you don’t care enough to learn more about it. Ever heard of the Broken Window Theory?

      Read a book. And please find a different outlet for your negativity.

    3. Why don’t you go spend your spring break volunteering how you want to do it there, then? The students in Reading this past week made a huge difference, and I’m sure the community garden will get plenty of positive use. ASB made the community a friendlier, more positive place.

    4. After participating in this program as both a volunteer and a coordinator, I am disgusted by your ignorance towards this program. 78 coordinators spent months planning these trips, covering a wide variety of issue areas. Perhaps, if you had been so inclined to help, you would have realized that some of these trips did focus on getting kids on better tracks, while others focused on the environment, animals, gender focus, etc. Groups of students, in fact, DID go into dangerous areas that you probably wouldn’t even consider walking through let alone spend your entire spring break in. Before you go pointing fingers, maybe you should give us some insight on what you did with your week? Because I am pretty sure you would not be sitting behind the safety of your computer screen pointing fingers at the 400 plus volunteers that wanted to give back in whatever way they could during a week when most college kids were either sleeping or drunk…had you spent your week being productive.

    5. If you aren’t happy with it, then get up and do something about it yourself. Obviously you are too arrogant to do that yourself so maybe you should have spent the time fixing the problems you are so “concerned” with instead of degrading others who are trying to help out. Grow up.

    6. LNAnthony, if you are aware of a community center that is up and coming that is focusing on creating drug education and after school programs to bring kids out of the streets and into the classroom, Alternative Spring Breaks would love to hear about it. This could become another site trip where volunteers can help support these programs for a week.

      As for saying how little thought goes into these volunteer trips, I’m pretty confident that the coordinators of this trip put more than just what you think is “a little.” With a handful of office hours a week in addition to academics and all other extra-curriculars, the work that these coordinators put out is quite amazing. Putting together a trip packet, contacting alumni in the area for support, getting in touch with a local church for shelter during the week, working to plan out a schedule each day…these are only a couple of the things that coordinators have to do; a lot of planning goes into coordinating. If you think you can be a better coordinator, I’m sure the CSC would love your enthusiasm to help the underserved areas of Reading that you are more aware of.

      If you think that volunteering by maintaining grounds isn’t worthwhile, tell that to Berks County Conservancy or Angelica Creek Park Environmental Exploration Center. These are probably two of hundreds of thousands of organizations across the nation that focuses on serving the community through environmental means. I understand that some people would prefer another form of volunteering, and there are other issue areas that ASB covers ranging from working with children, the elderly, and HIV/AIDS education to name a few.

      Talking trash about volunteering is not the way to go about this. Be proactive. If you don’t want to volunteer, that’s fine; just don’t go around putting down those who gave one week of their life to do some good.

      There’s no such thing as volunteering that is “wrong.”

    7. I have to agree with you on the location. My jaw just dropped open when I saw that they went to Reading, PA. Reading?! Really, BU?! I’m from PA, close to Reading and the fact that students were sent here to do a service project has me shaking my head for so many reasons. Students don’t need to be sent anywhere dangerous or be put in harm, but they should go someplace where people actually need help. This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen.

  2. So the school should send students into dangerous parts of a city they don’t belong to so they can “save the city” in a week–when the residents and local government can’t seem to make a dent at all?

    How about you both recognize that any kind of exposure to community service is a good thing. That students who take the time to give back, rather than spending a week in Cancun, are remarkable. And that there’s only so much a group of students can do with one week. There are plenty of projects that promote social justice within schools and colleges at BU. It’s supposed to be a break. There’s nothing wrong with combining said break with service. In fact, there’s a lot right with it.

    I find this entire attitude “appalling” and not even a little “hilarious.”

    1. Hearing people complain that the community service that BU students do isn’t “good enough” is mind boggling to me. Anything that can be done to even slightly improve a community is worthwhile.

  3. Personally, I think the Alternative Spring Break program is amazing and have seen firsthand what a difference it can make. It saddens me that not everyone has had the beautiful experience that I have, but I hope that everyone can appreciate the effort that goes into these trips and the dedication of everyone that’s involved. You might not be able to change the world in a day, but you can definitely make a difference.

  4. This is for “LNAnthony”….Why should anyone recycle their plastic bottle? Why should anyone give spare change to a homeless person on the street? Why should anyone spend 5 minutes speaking with someone affected by a drug addition? In the end, it makes such a tiny difference, right? Homelessness won’t be cured by that spare change, the environment won’t be saved by recycling that solitary Snapple bottle, and people with drug addictions will still be stigmatized. In fact, why should anyone EVER do anything to make the world a better place when there is so much suffering in neighborhoods right across the street? As you mentioned, cities like Reading, Baltimore, and Detroit have struggles that go beyond what any one group of people can do in a week. They go beyond what our own government can fix in 10 years. So why even try?

    The truth is, Alternative Spring Breaks makes a small difference in the communities it visits. But even if one elderly woman smiles at having a ramp built for her home, or one LGTBQ student feels accepted and heard thanks to an ASB voluneer—it will have been worth it. Even if one BU student gains a new perspective in life, or is inspired to give back in the future, it will have been worth it. The cultural exchange, solidarity, and love that ASB instills (especially compared with a traditional spring break) IS worth it. The true impact is on the BU volunteers that participate in the program, and that should be no surprise. No one ever said that the impact of ASB is about “fixing” a broken city. The impact of ASB is about bringing together groups of BU students, for the common goal of doing SOMETHING to help. By creating friendships and inspiring people to care about others, ASB makes a difference in our community as much as it does in the 39 communities it travels to. So the next time you want to call a community service program like ASB appalling and hilarious, make sure to ignore the homeless guy, throw your Snapple bottle on the side of the highway, and ignore any person that needs your help in any way. Because surely there is no point in making a small difference in this world, right?

  5. While I certainly agree that the community service done by BU students is worthwhile and makes an impact, I don’t understand why it’s necessary to travel all over the US to do this community service when there is so much to be done here in Boston. Rather than spending money and spending most of the week driving to these distant locations, ASB should be focused on making a difference here in our own city.

    1. The CSC has many programs that do service throughout the city that run throughout the year. FYSOP deal with the city and hundreds of freshman participate in that. ASB did add a Boston trip this year so there was a group helping out in our city. ASB doesn’t spend a whole week traveling most of the trips only take a day’s travel. As someone before mentioned, ASB is also about the cultural experience. It’s our break we want to have a little bit of break and do service. These trips allow us to do both. We wouldn’t get to learn about a different place and get to help out there. You want everyone to do service in Boston? The dorms are closed over break it would be very hard to find housing for 38 trips in the city.
      Most of us won’t live in Boston after we graduate. Being able to go to a different plave over spring break will help us learn about another area of the US that we may potentially want to reach out and help in a live after graduation.

    2. Please keep in mind that the Community Service Center has 12 other student-run programs that run all year during which students work directly with the Greater Boston community. These are long term commitments that greatly benefit our volunteers and the people we work with. It IS extremely important to the CSC to make a difference in our own city, and this is reflected by the bulk of the programs at the CSC.

      The point of ASB is to have a spin on spring break. While most students travel to fun locations, stay in Boston, or travel to their homes, ASB allows volunteers not only travel and explore parts of the country, but also to participate in meaningful service while they are there. ASB is a spring break trip, so travelling to different locations comes with the program itself. One of the beautiful things about ASB is that volunteers and coordinators bring back ideas and input from the places they volunteers and share them with others here at BU. Indeed, these volunteers and coordinators are usually the ones who take on great leadership roles in the other CSC programs (along with so many other BU and Boston service programs), aided by the wonderful things they learned while on ASB trips. It is by no means saying that Boston is not important. In fact, this year there was an ASB trip in Boston for volunteers who chose to stay in the city and do their service here. Of course Boston is special to us, but other communities have just as much to offer, and we should volunteer wherever we are needed.

    3. Although it is true that many of the ASB goups travel to other communities outside of Boston, they also have a group that stays in Boston that helps out several organizations in the area involving issues from LGBT to environmental awareness. In addition, the coordinators of these trips do community service around Boston during their training sessions.

      It is disappointing to see and hear how little informed some students are about the wonderful work that both ASB and the CSC do for the Boston community and other communities around the US. Instead of judging or criticizing their service and work, it would be better to learn more about the real service they do.

  6. Since I am intimately connected with the BU ASB program (I have hosted BU ASB groups for dinners the past 3 years) I believe I feel entitled and qualified to comment:

    First of all, the overwhelming majority of college students spend their spring breaks doing just that- taking a break, and that is fine; there is nothing wrong with that. Going to the beach, going to the Rockies to get in a last bit of skiing, even just hanging out at home is fine. The BU ASBers, however, forgo such relaxation, pay literally hundreds of dollars for the privilege, then travel around the country to do service projects.

    Here in New Orleans, our community has been impacted by budget cuts. Specifically, our SPCA has been hit hard and just within the last week I have received no less than 4 e-mails begging for volunteer help with a number of projects. While the BU ASBers are only here a week, their impact is tremendous. Our abandoned puppies need proper socialization, our community outreach needs more personnel, and the facility is always in need of some touch-up that the employees and regular volunteers simply cannot do. The BU Gang and others like them are vital to what we do here. Their impact is felt and appreciated.

    A secondary impact is not as noticeable but every bit as important. The fact that a group of college students would travel 1600 miles to impact our community absolutely makes an emotional impact upon us as New Orleanians. While my wife and I arguably put ourselves out to a degree to cook and host them for dinner, the impact they made on us was far greater than anything we could have done for them. This group was so uplifting with such generous hearts, and it is this emotional impact on our community that simply cannot be overstated. The NOLA gang and others like them give of themselves and make a positive impact on the community. What the hell is wrong with that? As I told the wife the other night, this group reinforces my hope for the future, because who they are as individuals will definitely make an impact on our society. I’m proud of them for what they have shared with us. As for traveling around the country instead of Boston, it’s good for all of us; we learn and grow from those whose lives and culture are different from ours. They are not going to change the world like Nelson Mandella, but they have made an impact.

    1. Jim,

      Thank you for the kind words on the NOLA BU ASB group. My son Justin was part of the group and he was so uplifted by this trip and the spirit of New Orleans. I am proud he could be of service and I know he will remember the NOLA Hospitality forever. Thank you!

  7. In this world of “me” any help a person can give is worthwhile and special. The BU ASB program is full of dedicated students who look beyond “me”. I was honored to host the Detroit group for dinner one night. I was touched by their commitment to helping teenagers in Detroit. They arrived the day our former mayor was charged with 49 counts of breaking the law. In a city full of despair, they where so hopeful for Detroit and it made me think positive too. The Detroit group was an amazing talented caring group and what great ambassadors for BU they were. I will never forget the wonderful engaging night we had and I thank them for helping Detroit.

  8. I understand what everyone is saying about community service being a good thing in general and all that, but this location was ridiculous. I am from nearby this area and I cannot believe it was an ASB trip. Believe me, if you know this area, you would be shocked at this place being an ASB location. It’s a fairly affluent, run-of-the-mill community in good shape. This article doesn’t even talk about anything but time spent fooling around with friends in between garden work. I’m floored by the whole thing.

    1. The first five paragraphs have no mention of “fooling around,” unless you count sight leaders who keep people upbeat “fooling around,” rather than good management of a group of college kids opting to do service rather than drink on a beach.

      Also, if you think “garden work” and service is easy, and you live nearby, how bout you go dedicate a week yourself and report back? Then you can explain to Berks in person how ridiculous their little non-profit is because it doesn’t serve a cause you find important enough.

      1. I will admit they did a lot of work. That is true. I am sorry that I overlooked that. It’s good that they did help out, I guess. It just seems weird to me to send people on a trip to this place. I have done community service in my area and have no problem with Berks. I just don’t understand why an organization in Reading, PA is sourcing kids from BU for a project like this. There are plenty of local schools in that area. I feel like ASB trips usually send BU students to places where they can help communities with more urgent problems. That’s why I think the Reading, PA location is strange.

        1. The “organization in Reading, PA” is not sourcing “kids” from BU. That is an entirely uninformed thought. Each year the Program Managers consider new locations throughout the United States for service. However, before they even consider locations, they consider what issues are most important to them and how they would like to shape a program with over 20 years of history. The Reading, PA location was established by the suggestion of a CSC volunteer (who lives in Reading, so you being “from nearby” is–sorry–no longer helping your argument) who is passionate about environmental education and service and knew about a few organizations that would be ready to accept a group of volunteers with open arms. The suggestion to get involved there agreed with many of the Program Managers’ goals: it added a new location so more students could participate in the program; it was closer in proximity to Boston, so those wishing for less travel time would have more options and it also presents an opportunity to become a public transportation trip in the future (meaning the fee would cost less for the participants); it added another environment based trip where ASB is traditionally heavy on hunger, food, homelessness, and housing issues; and it opened up 2 more spots for the CSC to bring in student leaders in the form of ASB coordinators, which if it has not become clear yet, helping these coordinators grow as leaders is a major aspect of the program.

          I hope this helps to clear up the “why Reading?” debacle.

          1. Actually your post was very insightful. It does make more sense about how this serves as a valid ASB trip. It would have been nice to see the article explain more of these things.

  9. From talking to the coordinators themselves, who wrote this article, it is clear that the original intent and voice of the article was entirely edited out by BU Today. Now it comes off as unclear how the students on the ASB trip actually helped. Let me attempt to clear up a few things.

    Instead of “restoring” a community garden–which suggests that they were bringing it out of disuse and neglect–the students were working side by side with the local organization and the local people. Doing so allows them to learn how a community garden in a relatively poor, inner-city neighborhood can lift up the residents and create a sense of shared responsibility, not only for the gardens, but for your neighbors. It was as much a learning experience as a service trip. That’s the ASB experience.

    The other thing, and this is important: as of the 2010 census, Reading, PA had the highest poverty rate in the entire United States, at 41.3%. Having the most amount of poor people doesn’t mean that everyone in the city is poor, hence the confusion of some of the Reading area natives on this thread. The question I have for you is, where in town do you live? The largely more affluent outskirts and suburbs? Or the more intensely poverty-stricken inner city neighborhoods? Affluence is not evenly distributed within city borders.

    The last thing I’ll point out is that as a former volunteer and coordinator myself, I can understand the feeling that comes up that makes us question the necessity or benefit of ASB. Does it do much good in the long term to just go down to some place for a week? Who knows? I went down to Greenville, SC my first trip, as a volunteer, and we worked an an after-school program for kids living right on the border of a neighborhood between the haves and the have-nots (they were the have-nots). When we had to leave after that week was done, many of us were in tears because we didn’t know if we had done any lasting good. Would they remember us? What directions would their lives take? We fell in love with those kids, and wanted to stay there for much, much longer.

    So here’s a question for y’all: is the purpose to “FIX” a problem in a week? Or to reorient students’ intentions towards a life of service? To provide a silver bullet? Or to instill a sense of civic duty, of social responsibility? Which do you like?

    1. That is a very helpful explanation. The trip seemed strange to me because the article does just make it seem like volunteers were re-instating a garden in Reading. I have not been to the inner-city parts of Reading, so the point about poverty there is good, too. As you said, it would have been better if the article talked about how working with the local people and organizations in Reading was an attempt to help alleviate problems from poverty. It is unfortunate that the article was edited down so much, because it really does not explain the true scope of the trip as you have.

    2. This is a great sentiment, thanks for expressing your thoughts. In addition, the tone of this discussion, which focuses on whether or not “fixing” the social issues attributed to the high poverty in Reading is possible, is leaving out a major factor. The importance of working with the environment! Most of this thread has discounted the importance of the service itself that these volunteers have done. Yes, Reading struggles with poverty, violence, and drugs. But even in such an area, people have not forgotten the necessity of protecting the sustainability of the city, and keeping it green. I’m proud to know BU students volunteered their time within this crucial area, and I don’t know why the focus HAS to be shifted away from environmental factors. Yes, poverty is important, and planting a tree isn’t going to help someone who is starving. But preserving these gardens, protecting this green pace, and spreading awareness about environmental issues IS the right direction for Reading, and shows something good can grow from desperation.

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