Spring break meant more than sipping margaritas on the beach for many students interested in civic engagement.
The Student Volunteers Council (SVC), which provides service opportunities for students year-round, ran two spring-break trips. The Pace Center for Civic Engagement sponsored four trips, and associate professors Kimberly K. Smith and Melissa V. Harris-Lacewell took their environmental justice class to volunteer in Louisiana.
For students who can't volunteer during the academic session of the semester, service trips are a rewarding alternative. "I think a lot of people want to serve during the year and don't get the opportunity to because they're busy," said Farrell Harding '10, coordinator for the SVC break trips.
One SVC group worked with the Youth Service Opportunities Project in New York, serving the homeless at a different Manhattan soup kitchen every day of the week, while a second helped map post-Katrina reconstruction efforts for the Gentilly Project.
"What was great about this project," Harding said, "was that they actually worked with the homeowners and got to interact with the community when the neighbors cooked Creole lunches for them every day."
The Pace Center's new Breakout service-trip program was also popular, receiving about 70 applications from undergraduates. One of its four trips was to New Orleans to meet with the mayor's office and discuss policy, rebuilding, and education challenges in the hurricane-ravaged city.
The Breakout trips' goal – to incorporate service and learning – was emphasized on the trip to Los Angeles, where students visited detention centers and toured Skid Row. At the end of the week, they presented their experiences to the Princeton Club of Southern California.
"I was drawn to the Breakout trips because of the idea of putting learning and service together," said Christine Chong '10, a leader of the trip to a Navajo reservation in Arizona.
This group met with Indigenous Community Enterprises in Flagstaff and spent a night in a traditional Navajo Hogan home. Larry Nez '77 and Roman Bitsuie '78, of the Navajo-Hope Land Commission, also spoke to the students about how to plan development respectfully in Native American communities.
"I would not have traded my week in Arizona for any other spring break," said James Bryant '09.
The fourth Breakout group worked on a publicity video for the International Institute of New Jersey in Jersey City, which gives psychological and legal counseling to asylum-seekers. Students also toured a refugee detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., and met with Emily Holland '01, who works for the International Rescue Committee in New York.