Alternative Breaks chooses D.C., Florida
December 4, 2006 —
Two select groups of SVSU students will be spending their holiday vacations fighting homelessness and working with endangered animals through this winter's Alternative Breaks program.
For the first of the Alternative Breaks, student site leaders Kami Gibbs and Chelsea Robl will lead 11 students to Washington D.C. from Dec. 16-23 to work with Martha's Table - one of the largest charitable organizations aiding in the prevention of homelessness in the United States.
"I chose D.C. because it has one of the biggest populations of homeless people in the world," says sophomore Jamey Latocki, coordinator of Alternative Breaks. "It's also the heartland of our government, and what better place to see the need for change than in a politically advanced area where people are still living in cardboard boxes?"
Participants will assist in the organization's food pantry, food delivery services, and children's daycare during the day and bunk at a local church at night.
The second group of students will be traveling to Zolfo Springs, Florida from Dec. 30 to Jan. 6 to work with Peace River Refuge and Ranch, an animal sanctuary and educational organization that takes in endangered species from all across the country. Student site leaders Desiree Rottman and Ashley Verner will lead the group of 10.
"For instance," Latocki says, "there were some bears a family had left in cages on the highway. The only way they were getting fed for two years was from scraps people would throw out their car windows until Peace River rescued them."
The main focus of the student group will be to rebuild a habitat for cougars that was destroyed during Hurricane Rita.
Latocki chose for SVSU to work with Peace River Refuge after hearing about a successful Grand Valley trip to the same location. Because most people who work with animals are required to have a degree, Latocki knew working with the unrestricted volunteer organization would be a rare opportunity.
She hopes that participants of both the D.C. and Florida trips will come back to Saginaw with the anticipation to become involved with local community service projects.
After going to the South American country of Guyana for last spring's Alternative Break to work with Habitat for Humanity, Latocki says she has become more professional, more prepared for life, and more sure that she wants to work with a non-profit organization for her future career.
As a special education major, she has hopes to work overseas someday and teach in a third world country.
"Participating in Alternative Breaks truly made me question what I want to do with the rest of my life," she says. "It's really a once in a lifetime experience. I mean, not many people can say they built a cougar habitat with their friends over break. It's a great story to tell. And it might sound cliche, but it's a real resume builder. Employers look for people who have done community service. In the past, some students have been offered jobs right at the very locations they've volunteered. It really opens doors."
Next year's Alternative Breaks will center on youth and children, literacy and education, and health conditions and wellness. A possible international trip will focus on diversity and culture. Applications will be available next fall through the Student Life Center.