During Florida Atlantic University’s spring break, 29 students and 6 faculty and staff members chose to do something a little bit different with their time—instead of taking a week off from work and school, they spent a week “on” giving back to two Florida communities. These 35 individuals completed 819 hours of service as part of the Weppner Center for Civic Engagement & Service’s Alternative Spring Break program. The students, faculty and staff were divided into two sites, each with a different theme and serving a different community in Florida.
Don’t Stop Believin’ (DSB), named after the song by Journey, traveled to Orlando, Florida, to work with organizations that supported children with life-threatening illnesses. Participants worked each night at Give Kids the World Village, a whimsical, cost-free residence for children who have their wishes granted through organizations such as the Make a Wish Foundation. During the day FAU volunteers served pizza to children in the hospital with the B.A.S.E. Camp Children’s Cancer Foundation and cooked meals for the residents of the two Ronald McDonald Houses in Orlando. The experience was eye-opening, emotional, and heart-warming for all. One participant remarked that as a result of the trip, “I realized how blessed I am and I learned the necessity and importance of community and support.”
This Land is Your Land (TLYL), named after the folk song by Woodie Guthrie, traveled to Apopka, Florida to learn about issues of immigration and social justice. Participants stayed with immigrant families in Apopka, worked in the fields each morning with the families, and worked with the local Hope CommUnity Center each afternoon. The experience allowed participants to better understand the life of an immigrant farmworker in the United States and gave them a unique perspective on the agriculture industry in the United States. As one student stated, “I can never look at my food or the world in the same way again.”
With this year’s Alternative Spring Break Program expanding to two sites and adding student site leaders as well as faculty to the program, a greater number of FAU students and faculty had the opportunity of a lifetime to immerse themselves in a topic of interest while experiencing the importance of serving others.