Students prepare for alternative spring break


As some UI students pack their bathing suits, suntan lotion, and flip-flops in preparation for spring break, others are loading their suitcases with work boots and T-shirts.

Many alternative spring-break trips are being offered at the UI this year, either for school credit or the opportunity to volunteer.

UI Recreational Services offers one-credit-hour recreational courses in which students can venture to Florida to scuba dive, Utah to mountain bike, national and state parks to backpack, or Chicago to help a public elementary school.

Doug Lee, the associate dean of the Division of Continuing Education, said this is the second year for these types of programs, which were “well-received” by students last year. Forty-seven students went in 2008, he said, and enrollment for the trips jumped to 110 for the upcoming spring break.

“I think these programs provide a lot of benefits,” Lee said. “Many of these courses are leisure-skills courses, which provide students with new skills that they could have for the rest of their lives. Plus, they don’t have to do all the planning and logistical work.”

Another group of approximately 40 students will travel America, but the members intend to volunteer. This is the second year of the Pay it Forward Tour, which is run by the UI Students Today Leaders Forever group.

Elizabeth Dilling, a senior at the UI and a returning member of the program, said the bus trip will stop in five U.S. cities where student will do various service projects before reaching their final destination, Houston.

“It’s a great chance to get to know different communities on different levels,” she said. “It’s cool to see the U.S. while also getting to serve. It’s a new thing called ‘voluntourism.’ ”

UI freshman Ashley Martin said she’s excited about spending her break helping others on the tour.
“It’s going to be quite an experience,” she said. “All my friends are going to be in Florida and Mexico, but that’s fine. This is a chance to make new friends.”

While those students are packing up to serve, others are choosing to help locally. A trip to Cedar Rapids for flood-recovery work, taking place on five days over break, is being offered to all UI faculty, alumni, staff, and students for no cost.

John Laverty, a UI associate director of Admissions, said that because he lives in Cedar Rapids and is well-aware there is still flood-recovery work to be done, he thought it would be a good opportunity for the university to help.

“I think it’s important for students to have experiences where they get involved in the community.” he said. “They will become citizens outside of just their university community.”

UI spokesman Scott Ketelsen that agreed the trip will benefit both Cedar Rapids residents and UI students.

“We are still very aware of the need in Cedar Rapids, so this is an after-the-fact effort,” Ketelsen said. “The reality is, Cedar Rapids is not back to normal, and it is far from it. [The people] are our neighbors who need help. If you have the week off of school and you think it’s the right thing to do, it’s a good match.”

Among the people embarking on the trip is UI President Sally Mason and her husband, Ken Mason.
The UI leader said she thinks this is a great alternative to a traditional spring break.

“Not every student wants to just go out on spring break and party all week long,” she said. “A lot of them are very serious and want to just give back to either a local community or a national community and help out. It sends a great message.”

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