In 1992, five UR students decided to use their Spring Break as an opportunity to give back to the community. Trading beaches and sunshine for hardhats and hammers, these students traveled to Chicago, Ill. to work with Habitat for Humanity.

Since then, volunteering over Spring Break has evolved into a full-fledged tradition at UR. Now called Alternative Spring Break, the program provides students with community service opportunities across the country.

This year, nearly 100 students participated in service projects organized by the Alternative Spring Break program. According to Christie Torruella, Program Manager for Community Service at the Rochester Center for Community Leadership, this number has been steadily increasing since the inception of the program.

Volunteers helped out in one of four planned projects, which took place in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.

In Raleigh, N.C., members of UR’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity built affordable homes for families in need. Students in the Catholic Newman Community traveled to Baltimore, Md. to work in the food pantry at the Father Charles Hall Catholic School. Still more students participated in Alternative Spring Break projects across the country individually.

One of the larger groups of volunteers, consisting of 22 students, took on several projects in the Virginia Beach area, including cleaning up the beach, vegetation removal and planting trees to make a habitat for migratory songbirds. According to junior Peter Manza, co-organizer of the trip, the project was well worth the effort put into it.

‘It is hard work, but being out in the sun in 70 degree weather is a great change of pace from being in a Rochester winter or being stuck in Rush Rhees [Library] all day,” Manza said. ‘We also had a day off and we got to have some fun and explore the Virginia Beach area.”

All advertising, communication and budget planning for the trip was done by Manza and co-organizer and junior Sarah Kauper. In fact, according to Torruella, ideas and organization for all the projects were student-generated.

‘Students at UR planned and organized these trips,” she said. ‘Many of [the trips] stemmed from alumni interest, students networking and even students researching different service projects across the country.”

Funding and support for the projects came from the Rochester Center for Community Leadership and the undergraduate Community Service Network.

Manza emphasized that all students should consider going on an Alternative Spring Break trip at some point in their college career.

‘It’s a great opportunity to meet some awesome people and make lasting friendships during your college years,” he said. ‘It’s a unique experience, which you can’t find just anywhere.”

Fleming is a member of the class of 2013.

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