Spring Break Means Helping Others for Some Ithaca College Students

ITHACA, NY — Many college students will be hitting the beaches over Spring Break, while others will be spending their time away from classes in the mountains or the big city. But for 42 students participating in Ithaca College’s Alternative Spring Break program, going to such locations won’t mean they will be working on their tans.

Taking place March 9–17, Alternative Spring Break gives Ithaca College students the opportunity to grow personally and professionally by working at a variety of sites, ranging from the fragile Gulf Coast seashore to inner-city Washington, D.C., to the Appalachians of West Virginia. The annual program is run by the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs.

“The participants provide direct assistance to organizations addressing a variety of forms of social, economic and environmental injustice, helping them develop perspectives on civic engagement, place-based learning, diversity and activism through new and challenging environments,” said Don Austin, assistant director of community service and leadership development in the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs. “They often consider it as one of the most rewarding experiences of their college careers.”

Students this year will be taking part in the following service programs:

Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration and Community Service in Pensacola, Florida
Students will work with the nonprofit Community Collaborations International in one of the most ecologically sensitive ecosystems on the planet. They will take part in a variety of activities, including the installation and restoration of oyster habitat and salt marsh grasses, dune restoration, and various human services projects assisting local communities in need.

Service and Learning on the Allegany Native Peoples Territory in Salamanca, New York
Salamanca is the only city in New York that exists entirely within native peoples’ territory, part of the Seneca Nation of Indians. Students will assist the staff of the Salamanca Youth Center with academic tutoring, program and activity design and implementation, and with maintenance projects such as painting and making minor repairs. As part of their experience, students will gain a greater understanding of the complexity of relations between native and non-native peoples and how culture, politics, geography and economics affect these relationships.

Serving, Learning and Networking in Washington, D.C.
Students will witness firsthand the growing problem of food insecurity by volunteering with nonprofit organizations that serve the hungry in the Washington metro area, including DC Central Kitchen. They will also experience the educational opportunities offered in the nation’s capital by visiting museums, monuments and other points of historical interest and networking with Ithaca College alumni who work and live in the area.

What Does it Take to Save a Mountain? Examining and Addressing Mountaintop Coal Mining in West Virginia and Beyond in Beckley, West Virginia
West Virginia is the epicenter of mountaintop removal (MTR), a process by which explosives and heavy machinery are used to remove the top portion of a mountain to expose the coal fields underneath. Critics of this mining method point to the resulting loss of biodiversity as well as the adverse human health impacts from pollution of public water supplies and exposure to airborne toxins and dust. Students will learn about the coal mining history of the region, observe the impacts of MTR on the environment and speak with and learn from some of the nonprofit organizations and citizens groups that raise awareness and provide education about MTR in Appalachia.

State Park Restoration and Maintenance on the Coast of Virginia
Volunteers will have the opportunity to work with the Department of Parks and Recreation on maintenance, rebuilding and beautification projects at two of Virginia’s most visited parks: Kiptopeke State Park and First Landing State Park. They will learn how staff manage a park system; learn to work as a team while building and grooming trails, repairing fences, or working on decorative gardens on the park space; and explore the rich history of the region.

For more information on the Ithaca College Alternative Spring Break program, visit www.ithaca.edu/sacl/osema/service/asb or contact Don Austin at (607) 274-3222 or austin@ithaca.edu.

Students working with DC Central Kitchen