In answer to the age-old question ‘what did you do on your spring break?’ a group of Keuka College students will not reply with an answer you’d expect them too.
That’s because these students traded bathing suits for paint brushes, flip flops for feather dusters, and sunscreen for visiting orphans and senior citizens as part of the College’s sixth annual Alternative Spring Break.
Alternative Spring Break provides students an opportunity to give to others as well as experience personal reflection, growth, and fun along the way. The annual Alternative Spring Break trip serves as a tool for letting Keuka College students become more familiar with the world, introduce them to experiences they have never had, and exemplify the College’s vision and mission.
This group of Keuka College students traveled to Quesada, Costa Rica March 19-26, and while the temperatures average 86 degrees in March, the students are not working on their suntans; they were simply working—hard.
Hosted by Mary Curtiss Miller ’49 and her husband Ralph, and led by Rev. Eric Detar, Keuka College chaplain and director of the Center for Spiritual Life, and Tim White, assistant director of residential life and director of the Success Advocates. The Millers have been missionaries in Costa Rica for more than 50 years.
“This is our second trip seeing the beautiful country of Costa Rica,” said Detar. “We will spend time at an orphanage and a senior living center, clean and paint at a Christian school, and attend a worship service in Spanish. Costa Rica is very refreshing; yet personally and spiritually challenging.”
Junior Kathryn Standinger, an occupational science major from Candor, and Sean Boutin, a senior criminology major from Purling, agree.
Standinger hopes to experience a culture “that is different from our own in so many ways,” while Boutin views this trip as having the ability “to learn about religious beliefs that may be dissimilar to my own.”
“I see this trip challenging me spiritually,” added Standinger, “because it’s going to require a lot of hard work and patience, and it may be harder to communicate with the people who we will be working with. But I’m really looking forward to it.”
For junior Emily Scholl, an occupational science major from Saugerties, the trip provides the chance to “experience meaningful connections, learn from one another, and learn more about myself through our service work in Costa Rica” that she looks most forward to. “I hope to further identify and explore the spiritual aspects throughout what we do.”
Emily Pidgeon, who went on the Alternative Spring Break trip last year, is excited to see the changes in the boys living at the orphanage.
“I think the biggest challenge will be saying goodbye at the end of the trip, knowing that I am graduating and this opportunity may not arise again,” said the senior social work major from Onenota.
Freshman JuneAnn Chadima, a Grand Island resident and occupational science major, is anxious to “offer my service to people that need us. I think the language difference is going to be challenging, but I am excited for this trip. I can’t wait to help other people and see what it is like in a different part of the world.”
While the students will not be tourists, they will be able to explore the country through activities such as speeding down a zip line, going horseback riding, and swimming in the hot springs of Arenal Volcano.
Other students participating include: Caitlin Jones, a junior clinical science major from Weedsport; Scott Thielman, a senior sociology major from Amherst; Megan Hall, a junior exploratory major from Scottsville; Roland Trajano, a sophomore occupational science major from Westlake Village, Calif.; and Francisco Rodriguez, a senior sociology major from New York City. Xang Song Yang, international student advisor, also participated in the trip.
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.