UDaB participants partnered with the National Relief Network to help relieve Hurricane Katrina damage in New Orleans.

Alternative break trips return

UD Alternative Breaks trips complete third successful year

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9:22 a.m., April 9, 2013--For the third year, University of Delaware Alternative Breaks (UDaB) has sent students out on direct service and experiential learning experiences during spring break. This year more than 150 students participated in five spring break trips to various locations and returned to UD with new perspectives and stories. 

This year’s participants will be attending a return event at 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 10, in Room 319 of the Willard Hall Education Building to share their experiences and reflect.

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David Finkel, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of "Thank You for Your Service," will visit UD to discuss his book with freshmen as part of the 2014 First Year Common Reader Program.

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In its third year, UDaB, a program administered by the Office of Service Learning, has grown exponentially with trips to New Orleans, North Carolina, Mississippi, Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. UDaB participants partnered with the National Relief Network to help relieve Hurricane Katrina damage in New Orleans and Hurricane Irene damage in Bayboro, N.C. UDaB worked in Mississippi with Community Collaborations to assist in cleaning the Gulf Coast, in New Jersey to help recovery efforts after Hurricane Sandy and in the District of Columbia to partner with Bright Beginnings, a preschool for homeless children.

Students returned to campus with their horizons broadened and view of life changed for the better.

Sophomore Erica Meier traveled to Biloxi, Miss., with a group of 40 UD students to do Gulf restoration, with one of their main jobs being oyster bagging. She said she got a lot out of the experience.

“After this trip, I can say with confidence that many of the participants will alter their daily habits to be more sustainable and may even inspire a few of their friends to do the same. And that's powerful stuff,” Meier said.  

The Washington, D.C., trip focused on a different kind of work: teaching. The 12 students on that trip served as teaching assistants at a preschool for homeless children, conducting lessons and playtime for youngsters from infant to pre-kindergarten.

“I started the UDaB experience understanding our ‘poverty in education’ objective, but after spending the week with 4-year-olds who are loved and cared for by the Bright Beginnings staff, it was unexpected and apparent to me that these kids are just as energetic, inquisitive and genuinely happy as any other preschooler,” said sophomore Shelby Dorr. “Bright Beginnings has had such an impact on me academically and personally, and I will undoubtedly continue my relationship with the center.”

While the kind of work done on these UDaB trips varied greatly, the ideals and values students took away were all the same.

"I would say that the experience that UDaB gives is really unimaginable until you go through it,” said freshman Brian Griffiths, a participant on the New Jersey disaster relief trip. “The connections you make with your peers allow you to really make a difference to someone that desperately needs it, while changing your personal perspective at the same time. The things you see, feel and do are just unreal when compared to life back home.” 

Sophomore Miki Rowe agreed. “The only words that can adequately describe UDaB are ‘life changing.’”

Senior Lauren Pitruzzello, coordinator for the program, said she continues to be inspired by the hard work and dedication of student participants and site leaders, and she looks forward to watching the program develop in the coming years.  

“Having been a part of the group of students who piloted this program three years ago, it has been an incredible experience this year for me to lead the program and slowly work to transition it to the future student leaders of UDaB,” Pitruzzello said. “I am so proud of the site leaders who facilitated five wonderful trips. and I am confident this program will continue to be successful and have an enormous impact on the University community.”

Those interested in learning more about UDaB can connect via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, or visit the Service Learning website for updates and information.

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