Over the years, spring break has morphed from a welcome interruption from reading and studying to a weeklong party-centric holiday in a tropical paradise.
But maybe you dream of helping others rather than joining your friends at the beach or pool. If so, an alternative spring break trip, which generally involves a small group of students who travel to another city or country to volunteer, might be a better choice for you.
However, some volunteer excursions, even those arranged by your school, can be expensive. If you’re unable to travel far from home for financial reasons or would simply prefer to make a difference in your own community, though, these alternative spring break ideas can be performed nearly anywhere:
1. Put your academic skills to use.
Most colleges and universities are on a different academic schedule than public school systems, which means that younger students are most likely still in class while you are not. Many schools are dealing with overcrowding, which means that one-on-one or even small group attention from teachers is rare. If you like being around kids, head back to your old school and see if you can help tutor students. Even if you don’t consider yourself a math genius or science whiz, you most likely know a lot more about those subjects than elementary school children. If this is something that you’re interested in, contact the school or school system beforehand—you may have to go through a screening process or criminal background check.
2. Volunteer in a public school.
You don’t have to tutor or teach to be helpful in a classroom or school. Many schools allow volunteers to answer phone calls, make copies, clean, re-shelve library books, or assist with fundraisers, sports events and other school functions.
3. Participate in or organize a cleanup.
If you’re passionate about the environment or just tired of seeing litter on the sidewalks, a cleanup is a good way to make a difference. Churches and other places of worship, environmental groups, cities, counties, schools and non-profit organizations commonly hold cleanups throughout the year. Check local calendars to see if an event is scheduled, or meet with local officials to help organize and schedule one yourself.
4. Spend time with nursing home residents or help elderly neighbors or relatives.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are home to older people who need conversation and companionship in addition to help from medical professionals. If you’re an outgoing person or someone who loves spending time with others, you might enjoy playing cards or board games with residents. You could even volunteer to lead games of Bingo, give manicures, and read newspapers or magazines out loud. If you’d prefer to spend time with people you already know or think you’d feel uncomfortable in a nursing home, you could assist older family members or neighbors with chores like cleaning, grocery shopping, or running other errands.
5. Become a mentor.
For one reason or another, many children are without positive role models in their lives. Volunteering in a classroom is one way to help make a difference in the lives of youth, but serving as a mentor is a bit more personal. Volunteer groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters, which pair children with adult mentors, have agencies in communities across the country.
6. Walk dogs at an animal shelter.
Animals need help, too! If you’re not able to adopt a pet, contact the Humane Society or other animal shelter for information about becoming a volunteer dog walker. Dogs waiting for adoption are kept in cages and need exercise as well as human interaction. Petfinder is a good resource for more information about volunteering at shelters.
7. Donate clothing and other items you no longer use or need.
If you’re pressed for time but still want to help others during Spring Break or at any other time of year, check with a local Goodwill or Salvation Army for donation rules and regulations. There may be restrictions on large items like appliances or old electronics and computer monitors, but gently used clothes, books, and small household items are generally welcome. Not only will you clean out your room, dorm, or apartment, you will wind up helping someone who needs it.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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