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New Spring Break Excess: Student Community Service

KSC junior Jessica Spellman plays with kids at a community outreach event at a low-income apartment complex in Orlando, Fla.
KSC junior Jessica Spellman plays with kids at a community outreach event at a low-income apartment complex in Orlando, Fla.

KEENE, N.H., 3/30/10 - More Keene State College students than ever are giving up their spring breaks in the name of community service. According to Mary McEntee, the coordinator for community service at Keene State College, at least 130 students participated in a week of organized volunteerism, up over 49% from last year.

With such programs as Alternative Spring Break and Here’s Life Inner City, students at Keene State College traveled far and wide, expressing the Keene State motto of “Enter to learn, go forth to serve.” These trips were entirely student led and organized, promoting leadership and service.

Students tore down and rebuilt houses and businesses, helped eliminate dangerous mold, and helped eradicate invasive plants that endanger the natural ecosystem. The student volunteers preserved wetlands and trails. They tutored at-risk children and teenagers. Some dug septic ditches and set up computer labs for a women’s halfway house. Others started up conversations with residents in homeless camps and the nearby communities that are trying to co- exist with them.

These opportunities to volunteer took place during the March 12-21 spring break; students who were student teaching in the community did their service work during the week of February 20-27.

Here are some of the places the student volunteers went:

  • Catalina Island, Calif. - Environmental conservation
  • New Orleans, La. - Katrina relief
  • Orlando, Fla. - Work with inner-city children’s programs, the homeless, and families in poverty
  • Everglades, Fla. - Environmental conservation
  • Atlanta, Ga. - At-risk youth
  • Athens, Ga. - Habitat for Humanity
  • Charlotte, N.C. - YMCA afterschool programs
  • Newport, N.C. - Habitat for Humanity
  • Marion, S.C. - Habitat for Humanity

These trips cost from $50-$350 dollars per student. Some student organizations contribute to help defray costs.

Reporters from the student newspaper, The Equinox, tagged along on some of these trips, blogging from the road and collecting student reactions and experiences. Equinox reporter Tara Nathan noted KSC junior Joe Robinson’s new perspective after seeing how differently some people in Athens, Ga., live: “When you take a look at what other people have and you look at what you have, [it’s great] to be able to give some time to realize that and give back.”

When asked why it was so important for a college student to go out and serve those in need, KSC senior Hannah Dale, who worked in inner-city Orlando, said, “America is in need of a social revival. Even before the economic downturn there were huge communities in need. Now, more than ever, we need to get out there and show our neighbors that we care. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have much experience in working with children or construction skills; it’s not your ability that matters, but your availability.”

Though there were many hours of hard labor (and driving), the most important contribution these 130 college students gave the communities they visited is hope. These students showed the communities they helped that spring break for college students can be a time of excess - excess social consciousness.

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Keene, New Hampshire 03435