Jamaica, Miami, South Padre Island, and Puerto Vallarta are among the Travel Channel’s Top 12 spring break destinations for college students this year.
A destination notably missing is Washington, D.C., probably due to its lack of palm trees and white sand beaches.
But a dozen Keuka College students, who chose to swap suntans for shovels, will travel to the nation’s capital April 1-6 to spend spring break helping those in need. The students, along with Eric Detar, College chaplain, and Tim White, resident director for Blyley and Harrington Halls and a retention counselor, are participating in Keuka College’s annual Alternative Spring Break.
The Keuka team will work with the Center for Student Missions (CSM), which provides urban missions and service experiences for youth, adult, and family groups.
While working in Washington, the Keuka students will prepare and serve breakfast and lunch to the homeless, assist with an after-school program for elementary school children, help with the construction and renovation of a church, and assist at a senior center day care program.
“Right now, we just know each other by name and maybe a couple of other things,” said Detar. “The students who choose to take Alternative Spring Break trips will have a unique shared group experience that no one else will have. By the end of this trip, each of us will be much more than just a face around campus.”
Courtney Ray, a junior social work major from Cato, believes the trip will be an eye-opening experience.
“As a social work major, I anticipate working with the kind of people I will work with in my career,” she said.
Kaysie Burnett, a junior education major from Shortsville, wanted to go on the Alternative Spring Break “because I have never been to Washington, D.C., and thought a service trip would be a good way to spend spring break.”
And while participating in a mission trip may be new to Burnett, helping others is in Nina Fusco’s blood. The freshman occupational science major has been practicing social responsibility through her church since she was 13. But since her church closed several months ago, the Mechanicsville resident has been looking for a service project. So, when she heard about the Alternative Spring Break trip, Fusco jumped at the chance.
“Participating in this trip lets me continue doing something I love to do, and I am looking forward to going,” said Fusco.
So are Penn Yan resident Alicia Parkhurst, who is pursuing her master’s degree in education, and junior Francesca Spina.
Two years ago, Spina, an adolescent social studies major, worked with nine other students at Franciscans for the Poor in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the 2011 edition of Alternative Spring Break.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and it changed my perspective on my life,” said the Rochester resident. “It made me realize how blessed I am and how much I can give to others in need. That is way I want to go to Washington and help again.”
After the students have performed the day’s work, they will have an opportunity for reflection at the Douglas Memorial Methodist Church, and enjoy dinners at ethnic restaurants. Also planned are visits to the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
White expects the Keuka group to be impacted by what they see and do while in Washington.
“The work we will do has been going on for a long time, and will continue after we leave,” said White. “We will get a snapshot of what people do every day to help those who need it most. What we get from this trip will be far more that what we give.”
Other students participating in Alternative Spring Break include: Robby Magee, a senior adolescent social studies/special education major from Fairport; Megan Russo, a freshman psychology major from Ceaderville, N.J.; Mattie Waldstein, a senior education studies major from Needham, Mass.; Patricia Wallace, a junior occupational science major from Bath; Lindsay Holmes, a junior occupational science major from West Henrietta; Sean Boutin, a sophomore criminology/criminal justice major from Purling; and Niki Chase, a junior social work major from Oneonta.
Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of features on recipients of the Judith Oliver Brown Memorial Award. The award, named after the late 1963 Keuka graduate, is supported by Brown’s family and the Class of ’63. It is designed to assist students pursuing culturally-oriented Field Periods.
Some of senior Mattie Waldstein’s closest friends at Keuka are the students from Vietnam.
They have shared their culture and stories of life in Vietnam with her, and she “truly values” the friendships she has formed with them.
“One particularly close friend, Thanh, came home with me for spring break last year,” said Waldstien, an educational studies major from Needham, Mass. “Her family urged me to visit them in Vietnam.”
And that is what she is doing this month as part of her Field Period.
While staying with Thanh’s family just outside of Hanoi, Waldstien intends to learn about Vietnamese culture and apply what she has learned in her classes, particularly Sociology of the Family.
“I will also visit local schools, and volunteer at a preschool in order to observe the differences and similarities between schools in America and in Vietnam,” said Waldstien, before she left for Vietnam.
Waldstein plans to use the experience of “being a minority in a foreign country, with little language or cultural understanding, to gain a broader perspective on diversity, which can help me better educate my future students on cultural differences and the importance of inclusion.”
In addition to gaining education-based experience, Waldstien will have a chance to apply skills learned in her digital photography class when she takes photos to create a scrapbook of her time in Vietnam.
“I am certain this experience will change me in ways I cannot imagine long after I leave Keuka College,” added Waldstein.