UI Center for Student Involvement and Leadership plans alternative spring break


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For many students, spring break means sun bathing and spending time with friends. For 15 students at the University of Iowa, this spring break will mean rolling up their sleeves and making a difference.

Applications are due Jan. 1 for the UI Center for Student Involvement and Leadership’s first-ever alternative spring break trip to Memphis, Tenn. The trip will focus on public health; the students will work with people with HIV and Aids.

Paul Mintner, the coordinator of leadership programs for the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, said the trip will cost between $250 and $300 but there will be fundraising opportunities in the spring to counteract the cost. The center has received around 70 applications so far, which he hopes to narrow down to 15 before the end of winter break.

“Our hope is to offer more leadership and service opportunities out of the Center for Student Involvement [and] Leadership, and this is certainly one way we hope to grow those opportunities,” Mintner said.

Students will be working with different nonprofits, including Friends for Life, a community center for people with HIV and Aids, as well as Hope House, a center that helps with children with HIV and Aids.

Gina Fortner, the operations coordinator for Friends for Life, said the students will primarily help out with the food pantry and the Feast for Friends meal the center hosts twice a month.  

“All of what we do here is about helping people stay medically adherent,” she said.

Friends for Life provides a variety of services for people with HIV and Aids, including providing food to take medication with as well as housing and educational classes about the disease, Fortner said.

“If you don’t have a stable home, or are sleeping under a bridge, you’re not going to be worried about taking your medication,” she said, noting that many services go into keeping the people with HIV and Aids on their medication.

Fortner said they always appreciate when large groups come to help.

“We love them,” she said. “We appreciate young people who give to the community, even it’s not theirs, and we are very glad that they are coming to spend some time with us.”

Other groups in the UI have offered numerous alternative breaks in the past, including the College of Law.

Associate Dean Linda McGuire said the college has offered trips since after Hurricane Katrina to cities ranging from New Orleans to Austin.

McGuire said the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership contacted her when it first started planning to ask about the college’s planning process. She said she supports the center’s ambition of planning a trip.

“I think it’s wonderful because I think the potential is there for there to be both learning and great service,” she said.

Mintner hopes the students make a difference in their work but more importantly are inspired for the future.

“I certainly do believe they’re going to make a difference, but I think the real difference is going to be [in] the students,” he said. “I think they’ll have more questions when they leave, and I think that’s a good thing.”

He said there are systems in place that affect how treatment and care are delivered to people with disease, which aren’t public knowledge.

“The questions I want them to have are why are things like this and what can I do about it?” he said. “I hope that they take a better understanding of how social justice relates to public health.”

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