Turning a concrete slab into a full-fledged structure with trusses might not illustrate the typical college spring break – unless you were one of 45 University of Mary Washington students and staff advisers who donated their time to rebuilding and rehabilitating houses last week.
UMW’s student-run Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) team organized three alternative spring break trips in Mobile, Ala., Maryville, Tenn. and Palm Bay, Fla., Feb. 28 through March 8. At each location, the students collaborated with Habitat for Humanity to help eliminate substandard housing.
Kelly Bryant, a senior psychology major, co-led the trip to Alabama this year for her third alternative spring break trip.
“It is such a cool experience to learn how to hammer, square a house and put up roof trusses, all in the pursuit of giving someone a better life,” said Bryant. “It makes me so happy and proud to know that with my one short week I have made a lasting difference in someone’s life.”
For some students, one trip is all it takes to change their perception of spring break.
“After working with Habitat for Humanity last year, I couldn’t imagine spending my break any other way,” said sophomore and international affairs major Caitriona Cobb. “The feeling you get after volunteering is irreplaceable. The trip is such genuine fun and I was fortunate to get the opportunity to co-lead the trip with two of my best friends.”
Alternative Spring Break is part of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, which calls students to aid impoverished communities. In the past 26 years, approximately 230,100 students have participated in the program nationwide. UMW has been involved in the program for at least 18 years, according to Christina Eggenberger, director of service in the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service.
“We have a couple seniors on the trips that have gone on Alternative Spring Break every year,” said Eggenberger. “For them, college spring break means building homes with Habitat for Humanity.”