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Alternative Spring Break 2012: You Can Make a Difference!

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If beaches, bikinis and booze aren’t your cup of tea, an alternative spring break may be a better way to spend your school-free week.

An alternative spring break usually involves volunteering, either locally or in another city. If wild craziness isn’t your idea of fun, working to help people in need will probably be a much more fulfilling experience than lounging poolside all day and hitting the clubs all night.

The non-profit organization Break Away explains that alternative spring break trips, in which small groups of students from the same school travelled to volunteer for one week, began in the early 1980s. The groups of students dealt with issues including poverty, education reform and the environment, and the practice continues to this day.

Break Away currently offers interactive consulting and training to students involved with alternative spring breaks and many colleges and universities offer their own organized alternative breaks, but the following activities can be done on your own.

Places to Volunteer During Your Alternative Spring Break

Whether you’re staying in the dorms on campus or heading home to visit your parents for spring break, it’s possible to help others and make a difference without jet-setting halfway across the world. The following volunteer opportunities are available in most areas:

Animal Shelters

Volunteering at a local animal shelter or animal care organization such as the Humane Society will allow you to make friends of the two-legged and four-legged variety. You will learn how to spread the message of animal protection and the importance of being a responsible pet owner alongside furry companions and like-minded citizens.

Nursing Homes or Hospitals

Nursing homes and hospitals often rely on volunteers to help staff members and nurses. If a nursing home or hospital in your area is in need of volunteers, find out what the duties will include to make sure you will be comfortable performing them. Nursing home volunteers often read to patients or play games with them, distribute water or juice, or take patients outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and hospital volunteers often distribute magazines or deliver flowers.

Places of Worship

Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship often need volunteers to teach classes such as Sunday school, help during worship services, or set up meals or other programs. You may need to be a member of the congregation to volunteer, but this may vary from place to place.

Public Schools

Schools across the country need parents and other responsible adults to help with mentoring, tutoring, chaperoning, and more. KidsHealth.org reports that there is often a shortage of volunteers in middle and high schools because many former parent volunteers return to the workforce once their children are out of elementary school. Contact the local school district’s main office to inquire about volunteer opportunities or stop by a school in your area and ask to speak with the principal. You may be able to help teachers in the classroom or with after-school activities such as sports or clubs.

Things to Remember

A good volunteer experience may lead to recommendations and connections that can help you during your post-college job search, so it’s in your best interest to take your volunteer position seriously, even if it is temporary.

If you commit to volunteer work during your alternative spring break, be sure to arrive on time and dress appropriately. Be prepared to follow instructions—you’re there to help make a difference, not get in the way!


Melissa Rhone+

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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