Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
As the middle of March quickly approaches, there is one thing on the mind of college students across the United States: Spring Break. While infamously known as a week when college students flock southward for sun, sand, and parties on the beach, many college students are using their week off from school to do something worthwhile and serve communities in need instead.
Known as Alternative Spring Break, college students organize service trips to communities both in the United States and abroad, and spend the week aiding disaster relief, building homes, feeding the homeless, and implementing various other projects benefitting the community.
More and more colleges and universities across the United States are offering a variety of Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips to their students every year. ASBs give students a chance to learn more about themselves outside of the classroom, and see firsthand how their service benefits the community in which they volunteer.
These spring break experiences open up young adults to a breadth of social issues, and inspire them to go beyond their week of service and take action in their own communities. Break Away, a non-profit dedicated to supporting colleges, universities, and other non-profit organizations in the implementation of ASB programs, trains and assists these organizations in the hopes that their service-learning programs will create “lifelong active citizens.”
ASB trips reached a peak in popularity after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged New Orleans and left thousands of Americans with their homes and livelihoods destroyed. The destruction that was left after these hurricanes hit close to home and motivated thousands of college students to rally together and help in the relief and recovery efforts (To read more about youth aiding relief and recovery efforts, check out our previous blog entry, Young People Supporting Relief and Recovery Efforts).
According to U.S. News and World Report, one of the most popular ASB destinations is New Orleans, where students spend their time rebuilding the city after the devastation of the hurricanes. Haiti will also most likely prove to be the destination of many ASB groups in future spring breaks to aid in the relief and recovery efforts after an enormous earthquake decimated the small country earlier this year.
Other organizations aside from colleges and universities are also promoting ASB opportunities for young adults. For the past 20 years, Habitat for Humanity has organized a year-round alternative break program for students, called the Collegiate Challenge. Habitat for Humanity offers groups of 5 or more, ages 16 and older the chance to work with one of the 250 Habitat affiliates for a week, building houses and working to eliminate housing poverty in America.
For the past 5 years, United Way has provided ASB programs for young adults to make a difference in communities across the country. This year, United Way is joining forces with Deloitte for Maximum Impact: Deloitte Alternative Spring Break” and is teaming up 30 students from colleges across the country and 20 Deloitte employees for service projects around the country, including a trip to Biloxi, Mississippi, to continue rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Katrina.
Here are a few more examples of Alternative Spring Break activities taking place this year:
- Hamilton College’s ASB program is celebrating its 18th year of service trips, ranging from activities such as building homes with Habitat for Humanity, to passing out meals to the homeless and tutoring children in elementary school.
- Students from Vassar College in New York and Duquesne University in Pennsylvania are traveling to Central Florida to build homes as part of Habitat’s Collegiate Challenge.
- UT Dallas is offering 11 different trips this year, focusing on different social issues that face communities. Some examples are traveling to Oklahoma and working with the Sequoyah Bay State Park in environmental conservation efforts, and traveling to Texas and working with the Southern Animal Rescue Association and aiding in animal rescue and protection projects.
- The University of Richmond’s Collegiate Disaster Relief Team will be spending their 5th consecutive spring break in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans working on hurricane relief efforts
- 300 University of Iowa students are volunteering at inner-city elementary schools in Chicago and working on literacy projects with the students.
There are many other Alternative Spring Efforts engaging students throughout the US this year. Do you have other examples of Alternative Spring Break programs to share? We would love to hear them! Please share your stories in the comments below.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
This makes sense: the values and characteristics that are instilled in a person during a service project or year of service - a sense to work for the greater good and betterment of others and the community – often do not disappear once their service term is over. Many choose to continually pursue their call to service from youth to adulthood by establishing their careers in public service, whether it is in education, environment, public safety, government, or military service. Service can serve as a great jumping off point for youth that are interested in public service careers.
A major pipeline from service to careers in public service is AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps mobilizes over 75,000 volunteers each year in addressing community needs in a variety of areas such as education, environment, disaster relief, public safety and other needs that arise. Organized by the Corporation for National and Community Service, these young volunteers, typically ranging in age from 17-24 (although they can be older too) improve lives and strengthen communities in need around the United States.
AmeriCorps provides great job training and fosters the development of skills integral to a successful career in public service, opening up the door for youth to jumpstart their careers in the public sphere. According to a longitudinal study conducted by AmeriCorps, 46% of National and State AmeriCorps Alumni are employed in public service fields, and 61% of these are employed in the government and non-profit sectors. Service Corps to Social Impact Career, written by Amy Potthast at Idealist, is a great manual for AmeriCorps alumni that are interested in pursuing public service careers.
Participation in service organizations not only develops the skills needed for a career in public service, but also creates a fantastic opportunity for networking within the public service sphere. AmeriCorps members, according to the study, report that their service connected them and made them aware of job connections and other career opportunities, and 47% of National and State members said AmeriCorps gave them the connections that helped them find a job. Clearly, the work experience and networking that service members gain during their service opens the door for careers in public service.
The Peace Corps also promotes the professional and career benefits associated with their two year stints of service. The development of skills such as fluency in a foreign language, international experience, and cross-cultural understanding can be very appealing to public service employers. In fact, Peace Corps alumni receive one year of noncompetitive eligibility for employment in the federal government. This is a tremendous advantage, as the employee screening process for the federal government can be a lengthy process. Alumni of the Peace Corps have taken advantage of this opportunity and have gone on to serve as Members of Congress and cabinet secretaries.
Along with AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, there are other service programs available that focus on a specific area of interest in which youth can gain experience for future employment in public service. The Department of Interior has allotted $50 million to the implementation of the 21st Century Conservation Corps.
This Conservation Corps fosters a respect and appreciation for the environment and its natural resources, and provides the opportunity to develop skills and contacts necessary for environmental and natural resource careers. One initiative in particular, the Student Career Experience Program, is designed specifically to support equal opportunity employment objectives and expose youth to careers in public service. These programs give youth the ability to serve in a focused career sector and apply these skills and experiences to future employment opportunities.
No matter the path of service a young person chooses, the skills and connections developed during their service can provide a wealth of opportunity for careers in public service. To find out more about youth service and employment, check out the latest addition of ICP’s monthly newsletter, Service News Worldwide!