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Center Plans For Spring Break 'Alternative'

Jan. 7, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Marissa Nunez

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students and faculty posing in front of Eucha fire department
A team of students and faculty worked in Eucha, Okla., during Spring Break in 2012, building a new community center for the Cherokee Nation and refurbishing a local park. —Submitted photos


Sam Houston State University is offering students the opportunity to break away from the usual activities and embark on a unique journey as a participant in the Alternative Spring Break program taking place this March.

Established in 2011 by the Center for Leadership and Service, Alternative Spring Break places teams of students in different communities throughout the country to expose them to various social and cultural issues and to promote social awareness and positive social change.

“ASB allows students to go into communities and become active,” said Tracy Symczak, a former CLS graduate assistant who recently graduated. “It’s a stepping stone to creating active citizens.”

This year, three teams will travel to San Antonio, Memphis, and Port St. Joe, Fla., to work with organizations ranging from academic, environmental, and programs aimed at tackling hunger and homelessness in the local communities.

In San Antonio, students will work with City Year, a program that focuses on keeping children in school and assisting them with their academic and personal development, from March 9-14; in Florida, students will work with St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve, which strives to conserve, protect and restore important ecosystems and landscapes, from March 8-15; and in Tennessee, students will work with the United Methodist Neighborhood Centers of Memphis, Inc., to tackle poverty, hunger and homelessness within the city, from March 9-15.

The main goal behind ASB is to not only get students to become more active in the community, but to start asking questions about the social issues affecting the people in that community, according to associate director for leadership initiatives Meredith Conrey.

Yulu Ye painting a bench yellow
(Above) Yulu Ye, a former international exchange student at SHSU from the Zhejiang Police College in Hangzhou, China, paints a set of bleachers as part of the cleanup in Eucha, Okla., in 2012. (Below) Junior food science and nutrition major Olivia Sisk works with Habitat for Humanity in Lake Charles, La., as another 2012 team.
Olivia Sisk on a ladder attaching roofing

“We want students to think deeply about different social issues, what they can do to help eradicate them, and then we’d like to see them educate and immobilize others to better our communities,” Conrey said. “That’s our overall goal for ASB.”

Szymczak was inspired by other campus’ ASB programs and began collecting information and modifying the program to fit SHSU.

“Our program is still young considering how many years other campuses have done it, but it’s slowly progressing and growing each year,” Szymczak said.

In previous years, ASB teams traveled to Gulfport, Miss., and New Orleans to help those impacted in various ways by hurricanes; refurbished parks and rebuilt community centers and trails with the Cherokee Nation in Eucha, Okla., and the Cumberland Trails in Soddy-Daisy, Tenn.; and worked with the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Ark.; among other projects.

“This is probably the most immersive service-learning experience we have on campus,” said Conrey, who calls ASB the “ultimate service experience.”

Sarah Hagler, senior psychology major, has been a part of ASB from the beginning as both a student participant and now as a third-year site leader. She said the program has allowed her to grow as a person on various levels.

“I gained a lot of skills, including construction work, but I’ve also learned a lot about interpersonal communication skills, teamwork, facilitating meetings, activities and working cohesively with others,” Hagler said. “ It’s an unforgettable experience, and I don’t think I would be the person I am today if I had not seen that flier four years ago.”

Students interested in being a part of SHSU’s ASB, can apply online through the CLS website, or at shsu.edu/~org_cls/asb.html. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Jan. 31 in the CLS Office, in Lowman Student Center Room 324a.

Informational meetings also will be held on Jan. 23, from 4-5 p.m. the LSC Room 307, and on Jan. 27, from 5:15-6:15 p.m. in LSC Room 307.

Student participants are required to attend all ASB meetings and events so teams can get to know each other and start to prepare for the trips in March.

“They meet five times before the trip because we want the teams to be as cohesive as possible,” said Conrey.

For more information contact Hagler at 936.294.1976 or visit the ASB website at shsu.edu/~org_cls/asb.html.




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