KST Cover
Reports from the Field
Alternative Spring Break 2008

Ordinary people have the ability to do extraordinary things!
– St. Bernard Parish team
This spring, during Alternative Spring Break (ASB), six teams of Keene State students traveled to service sites across the country. The student volunteers spent a week picking air potatoes, putting on Easter egg hunts for kids, framing windows, helping with the everlasting hurricane relief in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, and more. Their thanks? "One of our supervisors said to us, 'It's kids like you who restore my faith in the future ... I love you guys.'"


Florida City, Florida:
Air Potatoes and Squirrel Monkeys

Florida City, Florida photo
Florida City, Florida
Monkey Jungle photo
We spent our time at the Everglades Outpost and Monkey Jungle, and in the Everglades National Park. At the Outpost, we planted palm trees along the property and weeded and cleaned the grounds. At the Monkey Jungle, we worked in a 50-acre manmade rainforest picking air potatoes. (The air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, is an invasive vine that kills off native plants. Our job was to pick the potatoes before they sprouted.) What made this rigorous task more fun was hundreds of squirrel monkeys running wild in the trees. It was amazing to be so close to these animals. We spent our last day painting the Key Largo ranger station in the Everglades National Park. Going to Florida for ASB is an experience that we will remember forever.

Team Leaders: Jackie Clayburgh and Catie Bisson

Washington, D.C.:
Keene State Ambassadors in the Classroom

College for Every Student photo
Five of us, all student teachers, worked for a week in an inner-city elementary school through an organization known as CFES (College for Every Student). Our goal was to help students understand the opportunities and possibilities of college. Two of us worked with fourth-grade teachers and students. We conducted a lesson about New Hampshire, a math lesson, and a writing lesson. The other three student teachers joined the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms. We worked with the students to let them know what college can offer, and specifically talked about Keene State. We also met with a member of the Washington, D.C., school board and toured another school. It was a wonderful experience to talk to administrators.

Team Leaders: Ericka Metevier and Jill Rhiel

Savannah, Georgia:
Volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club

The 12 of us went to Myrtle Beach for a night, then on to Savannah for the rest of our trip. We stayed in a hostel and volunteered at the Boys & Girls Club of Savannah. In the mornings we helped repaint the building and in the afternoons we worked with the children. We helped them with homework, played basketball, taught them fun facts about St. Patrick's Day, did crafts – and we won't forget two crazy Easter egg hunts! We also explored the beautiful city of Savannah with its many squares.

Team Leaders: Mitchel Pyles and Amy Howard

Sea Island, South Carolina:
Meeting Habitat's Collegiate Challenge

Our team began as a group of strangers – underclassmen, two international students, and a lone senior – who came together to accomplish something meaningful. The home we helped build will house five generations of women.
– Georgetown, South Carolina team
Fourteen KSC students traveled to John's Island, S.C., to work with the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity affiliate in a program called Collegiate Challenge. Keene State, Hamilton College, Cornell University, University of Hartford, College of Mount St. Joseph, and Illinois Wesleyan sent groups to work in a new neighborhood called Brownswood Place, a community consisting completely of Habitat-built homes. The neighborhood will house more than 30 families by this summer. If Sea Island Habitat reaches this goal, they will receive a $1 million grant to build even more homes. We framed windows and doors, sided and roofed an entire house, and finished a porch on a house for a family of four. Our experience with the people of Sea Island Habitat was incredible. ASB is really an experience of a lifetime. One of our supervisors said to us, "It's kids like you who restore my faith in the future ... I love you guys."

Team Leaders: Marina MacDonald and Matt Hardy

St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana:
The Power of Communication

Nearly three years after the storm, most of greater New Orleans is still in need of repair. St. Bernard Parish is continuing to rebuild every day. Working with the St. Bernard Project gave us the opportunity to work alongside Parish residents, long-term volunteers, and fellow classmates. The work we completed on the homes of the Gaudet and Jones families saved them months of labor. Both families are employed fulltime and raising children. We experienced overwhelming hospitality. Residents told stories of their tragedies from hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as their devotion to rebuilding their homes and preserving their culture.

The single most important thing that we learned is the power of communication. It was apparent everywhere we went: lack of communication about evacuation; breakdown in communication in rescues; dedication to communicating the Gulf Coast's continued need for help. The work we did can be multiplied thirteen-fold by getting the word out to everyone we know. Ordinary people have the ability to do extraordinary things!

Team Leaders: Shanna Ketchum and Caitlin Campbell

Georgetown, South Carolina:

Georgetown, South Carolina Habitat photo Our team of 11 KSC students worked with the local Habitat affiliate. Georgetown, S.C., is absolutely beautiful and the community reached out to us with open arms. Southern hospitality is no myth!

Our team began as a group of strangers – underclassmen, two international students, and a lone senior – who came together to accomplish something meaningful. The home we helped build will house five generations of women. We worked with many skilled local volunteers who taught us to put up siding and shutters, paint doors, use power tools, build birdhouses, and climb scaffolding. It was amazing to see the rapid progress and feel as though our whole team had a hand in it. This trip was fantastic.

Team Leaders: Kelly Mullane and Justin Powers


Mary McEntee is the coordinator of Community Service at Keene State College.

Editor's Note: The Alternative Spring Break program provides significant opportunities for leadership and memorable learning experiences, involving students in complex social and cultural issues through direct service, experiential learning, discussion, and reflection. The program allows students to apply classroom learning to real-world topics. Special thanks to Ericka Metevier, ASB coordinator, who helped team leaders work out the logistics of the trips.

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