Warm weather and sunshine aside, 14 students and three staff from the University of Colorado Denver opted out of relaxing during winter break and opted in to helping others out.
As part of the Experiential Learning program, staff and students spent their break, Jan. 5-11, serving the local community in San Diego, Calif.
"We did a variety of service activities including volunteering two days with Habitat for Humanity San Diego, serving at the San Diego Rescue Mission, and we did half a day of beach clean up through I Love A Clean San Diego at Ocean Beach," explains Kyra Tarbell, community engagement coordinator at the Experiential Learning Center/Office of Student Life.
The center has been conducting alternative break activities for three years, but this was its first Winter Alternative Break. "We will continue to do it in the future," Tarbell says.
The trip provided students the opportunity to gain exposure to and learn about social issues in other areas of the United States, meet other students, develop team building and leadership skills, engage in service and try something different during winter break.
The students took public transportation the whole time they were in San Diego, which gave them insight into the social and environmental issues surrounding public transportation and enabled them to see a large part of San Diego. Students either paid for the trip themselves, fundraised or received a scholarship. "We had students from five different countries on the trip that are all UC Denver students," Tarbell says.
The next Alternative Break trip will be during spring break. "We have two trips - one going to Albuquerque, staying in New Mexico's largest homeless shelter and focusing on issues of poverty, homelessness and immigration," she says. "Our second trip will be going to Santa Fe and working with some of the local Native American reservations and issues they face."
The Experiential Learning Center and Office of Student Life also will have a variety of service projects throughout the semester. It's planning to hold its second Alternative Winter Break trip in January 2012.