Photo Courtesy of Alternative Service Breaks

Spring break is just within reach, and many students have getaways and relaxation plans to look forward to. One organization, Alternative Service Breaks (ASB), gives students another way to spend their spring vacations.

The student-led group offers various opportunities throughout the year for Tech students to spend their breaks on service trips and projects that take place all over the country. ASB covers a range of activities that allow its members help the community while developing leadership skills.

“[Our members] get great experiences and friendships.”

ASB is a relatively new organization, founded in 2010 by Andy Barrenechea in conjunction with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement. When it began the organization only had a handful of members. However, in three years the group has grown to 80 members participating in four spring break projects.

There are projects throughout the year with one activity in the fall and four during the spring.

In past years, ASB has regularly joined in Habitat for Humanity builds. At Beaches Habitat in Jacksonville, FL, volunteers worked from 8am to 4pm, at which point they participated in group activities.

“[Our members] get great experiences and friendships,” said Barrenechea, a fourth-year BMED major, “It’s a very tight community… everyone has service has one of their core values. It’s so cool to meet other people that have that same core value.”

In 2012, ASB expanded their operations, giving students the chance to perform service during fall breaks.

In their first alternative fall break, ASB members went to Long Branch Environmental Education Center in Asheville, NC. The center, which promotes sustainability, wildlife protection, renewable energy and improving environmental quality, relies on volunteers like ASB members to operate.

ASB’s executive board always works to find relevant volunteer opportunities throughout the semester. In April 2011, after the largest tornado incident ever recorded wreaked havoc on the southeast, ASB sent a group to help with tornado cleanup in Tuscaloosa, AL, one of the worst-affected sites.

“Our long term goal is to provide more service opportunities.”

The organization emphasizes its role in producing strong leaders for each trip.

“We’re trying to focus ASB to be a leadership development program,” said Barrenechea, who is currently president of ASB.

A weekend retreat gives its leaders a chance to exercise leadership traits and foster good dynamics within their group.

“It’s really cool because you see [people] who almost can’t lead a group end up being great candidates for trip leaders,” said Barrenechea.

Trip leaders are selected for a project to plan transportation, meal plans, group activities and service reflections. Leaders also meet with staff advisers throughout the trip.

After leading a trip, members can become part of the executive board who run the organization as a whole and select the following year’s projects.

This year, ASB plans to return to ongoing projects such as Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville, FL and Concord, NC.

In Biloxi, MS, members will work on Hunger & Homelessness projects in conjunction with Community Collaborations. ASB will work at food banks, homeless shelters, domestic violence centers and soup kitchens during the day, and participate in group reflections and visit areas of interest in the afternoon.

ASB will also travel to New York and New Jersey to provide Hurricane Sandy relief. Members will help with the rebuilding and cleanup effort ongoing in the Toms River area.

Although still young, ASB plans to expand its operations in the future.

“Our long term goal is to providemore service opportunities during school breaks, increase our fall break trips, and start summer and winter breaks,” Barrenechea said.

ASB members live by Tech’s motto of progress and service.