Volunteers Rebuilding TogetherSpring break may mean beaches, bikinis and beer for some, but students participating in Break Away, a national nonprofit group that steers people to community service projects, are delivering meals to AIDS patients, teaching Native American kids and repairing the environment in Utah.

Based at Vanderbilt University, Break Away’s services are available to students at more than 300 colleges and universities. It keeps a database of destinations and programs to help students tailor their breaks to personal and career goals. It will also help students identify ways of raising funds.

This year, Break Away has hooked up students with programs like New York City’s Gods Love We Deliver, which brings meals to homebound AIDS patients, the Cherokee Nation’s Head Start Program and Utah’s Plateau Restoration program, which works to develop solutions to damage done to fragile terrain.

Executive director, Kevin Roberts calculates as many as 20,000 students will participate in such breaks this spring and social networking on their Facebook page is increasing that number.  “Education is a central aspect of an alternative school break,” he said. “If we are helping to send students to Appalachia to build homes, then we need to educate them why there is a need to build those homes there. Working directly with the issues and problems society has is a great way for students to understand the world better.”

Students pay their own way and are encouraged to be as involved as possible in arranging the details of their breaks.  “We ask students to become as invested in their trip as is possible,” said Roberts. “That includes deciding on destinations, recruiting fellow travelers and performing the work once they get there.”

“We have a focus index for those looking to serve in all kinds of fields, such as agriculture, working with children and youth, domestic violence education, immigration and migrant workers and homelessness.”

Roberts thinks it’s a safe bet that many students receive longer-lasting satisfaction from their community service breaks than from lying on the beach or frequenting bars. “One of our slogans is that spring break lasts seven days, “alternative breaks” last a lifetime,” he said.

Be a part of Break Away 2014!

(Written by The American News Service)

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