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Another Kind of Spring Break

Spring break isn’t what it used to be – and for many Dartmouth students, that’s a good thing in every sense of the word.  Like their peers in colleges across the country, they are choosing to devote time between academic terms to community service. Commonly called alternative spring break, it’s an option that appeals to many at Dartmouth.

Jason and Jeff on Alternative Spring Break
Dartmouth students participate in an Alternative Spring Break trip in El Salvador.

The William Jewett Tucker Foundation includes alternative spring break trips among its offerings of educational service trips. For spring break 2008, which runs from March 14 through 24 this year, the Tucker Foundation offered eight options, including trips to rural West Virginia, Washington D.C, the Lakota Nation, and the Dominican Republic; four groups were sent to areas still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, including Biloxi, Mississippi and New Orleans.

Participants in service trips administered by the Tucker Foundation made their spring break plans back in the fall, when applications for leaders and participants are reviewed. In most cases, many more students apply for places than can be accepted.  Tucker Foundation trips also carry a commitment to fundraising, as well as to educational and team-building activities.

Lucy Liu ’09 is co-leading the Tucker trip to Caretta, West Virginia with Julia Tse ’09.   Both are veterans of previous Tucker trips. “Sophomore year, I was a part of an alternative spring break to New Orleans,” Liu recalls.  “I had joined because I wanted to make a larger volunteer commitment, something which I had very little time for during classes.”  Tse spent spring break 2007 in Biloxi: “I think the service trips that Tucker sponsors are great opportunities to become more aware of different parts of the United States.” Liu agrees: “There is a difference between the urban poverty that I experienced in New Orleans post-Katrina and the rural poverty in the Appalachia that we will face this year, but the basic construction work and reward of getting to know local people stays the same.”

Dartmouth Hillel is coordinating a spring break service trip as well. The group will be rebuilding houses in Slidell, Louisiana.  They will be hosted by Presbyterian Community Outreach of Slidell, and will be working alongside volunteer groups from five other colleges and universities. Two members of the Slidell trip are international students; Diana Dinescu ’09, from Bucharest, Romania, is one of them. “I expect to learn a lot of new things, and some about myself too, and to meet new people who can share their own motivations for doing the same thing. As for the people living there, the only thing I hope for is bringing a smile on their faces, and maybe help put a roof over their heads, or at least some paint on the walls.”  She continues: “Volunteering is a special opportunity, and I hope more people decide to do it each year.”

Sidebar: A student film grew out of previous spring and winter break trips to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and can be viewed here.

By KELLY SEAMAN

 

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08