Spring offers alternative breaks

Although people may have complained of boredom during the unexpected snow days at the beginning of the semester, another break from school is already on everyone’s mind: spring break.
As many students think of locations such as Panama City, Daytona and Miami as spring break locations, students from across the country are going to be flocking to the warm weather areas to escape the frigid temperatures of the North or the frigid temperatures in their droning, everlasting lectures.
While some students look for pure relaxation for their breaks, others consider alternatives that combine relaxation and service. With the beaches packed with high school and college students, there are plenty of other opportunities to get some sun and fresh air and to help improve other communities and the wildlife.
This is exactly what Katie Lebedev, a fourth-year HTS major, accomplished when she went on an alternative spring break to Tucson, Ariz. Lebedev joined Trailblazers in a trip two years ago as several students spent a week in the Sierra National Park to help clear and upkeep the trails for other visitors to enjoy.
“I didn’t live on campus anymore, and it was awesome how we all came together in the middle of nowhere, alone. We had to take all our food together and make clean water together. I got to meet a lot of people I would never have talked to, and I still keep in touch with them,” Lebedev said.
As part of a small, diverse group, Lebedev met students from different parts of the world such as France and China, while they backpacked through the park.
“It was definitely one of the best experiences I have had at Tech—the best social experience. I plan on going to California on another Trailblazers trip,” Lebedev said.
Going to a new place with new students and not knowing the logistics of the area can feel overwhelming, but rest assured, all groups have a leader to help group members safely get to their destinations.
Lebedev and her group went with a leader who organized the entire trip from choosing the location to finding volunteers to join the program. The leader even arranged for someone to come and to pick them up from the airport and take them to the trails.
In addition to the Trailblazers’ annual alternative spring breaks, Habitat for Humanity is hosting an upcoming trip to Jacksonville Beach, Fla., at which students can learn new skills and help give a family a home.
“I enjoyed the alternative spring break not only because it was community service, but also because I was working with people passionate about community service,” said Andy Barrenechea, a second-year BME major who participated in the Habitat for Humanity trip during his 2010 spring break. In collaboration with the Office of Community Service, Barrenechea is now planning the 2011 spring break.
During the trip, students will conduct house-building and meet the future residents on-site during the day, and be able to go to the beach, see movies and relax during the evenings.
These alternative programs are offered during the fall semesters as well.
During one of his fall breaks, Subi Mohan, ISyE ‘10, went on another program hosted by Georgia Tech Trailblazers to Saint Marks Wildlife Refuge in Tallahassee, Fla., where he helped to clean up wilderness trails.
Another fall semester service project was a one-week winter venture with Project H.O.N.O.R in New Orleans that Cameron Williams, a third-year MGT major, attended. During his winter break, Williams helped rebuild communities that were devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
“It was a really friendly environment, and though it was rough waking up in the mornings sometimes, we had time to go out to the city,” Williams said.
Different student groups, religious groups, companies and colleges sponsor host trips annually, offering different perspectives on the respective service projects.
“Spring break is not only a great time to relax, but also a great opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life,” Barrenechea said. “The more you give, the more you get back.”

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