ITHACA, NY—While they may be spending their Spring Break near a shore this year, several dozen Ithaca College students will be working on something far more important — and fulfilling — than their tans.
Three School of Business students are traveling to the banks of the Yukon River to help rural Alaskans complete their income taxes, while 45 other IC students will be heading to locations ranging from inner-city Washington, D.C., to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to perform community service.
Senior accounting majors Karimah White and Patrick Phillimore, professional accountancy M.B.A. student Megan Goodwine and faculty member Mary Bouchard will spend two days in St. Mary’s (pop. 500) and four days in Emmonak (pop. 800), near where the Yukon empties into the Bering Sea. They are volunteering as part of a program that provides Alaskans who don’t otherwise have access to services due to low income, language barriers and geographic location with free help preparing their state and federal income tax returns.
Ithaca College is one of only about a half dozen institutions to participate in the Volunteer Tax & Loan Program, which is sponsored by the Alaska Business Development Center. Travel takes place primarily by small aircraft, with the students often working from 8:30 in the morning until after midnight and residents sometimes waiting eight or nine hours in line to get their taxes done.
In addition to the learning experience, students in the program gain satisfaction from helping disadvantaged communities and learning about the culture of those communities.
Those taking part in the Alternative Spring Break program, sponsored by the college’s Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs, have a similar opportunity to gain personal and professional growth through direct volunteer experience and place-based learning. Students will be heading to five locations this year.
Manteo and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
The Outer Banks region is constantly under threat of pollution, habitat destruction and increased human impact on the natural environment. Students will volunteer with the North Carolina Coastal Federation on a variety of preservation projects, including coastal cleanups and reef restoration. Some will also work with the Oyster Restoration Project.
First Landing State Park, Virginia
One of the last remaining undeveloped, public areas along the Atlantic Coast, the park is home to numerous biking and hiking trails. Students will learn how parks staff manage a park system and have opportunities to groom trails, repair fences and work on other park infrastructure.
Kiptopeke State Park, Virginia
Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay, the park is a major flyway for migratory birds. Students will support the Virginia Department of Parks and Recreation in conducting routine maintenance, trail building and restoration, beautification projects and a variety of other tasks.
Seneca Nation of Indians Allegany Territory, 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 a variety of educational and recreational programs, while gaining a greater understanding of the complexity of relations between native and non-native peoples.
Food insecurity is among the biggest crises facing the United States, with more than 10 percent of Americans reporting in 2011 that they experienced involuntary short- or long-term hunger at some point during the year. Students will work with nonprofit organizations in the nation’s capital that directly address issues of hunger and food insecurity and learn how access to food impacts people’s ability to come out of poverty.