Want to make an (alternative) difference?

From: Public Affairs

Sunshine Children's Center gets a boost from one of JMU's Alternative Spring Break 2011 teams.

There's time for current students, faculty and staff to take JMU's award-winning Alternative Break Program to new heights.

Offering a variety of service opportunities on weekends and during school breaks at Thanksgiving, spring and May, the university's alcohol- and drug-free alternative break program is a two-time recipient of the Break Away National Program of the Year award. Break Away, which honored JMU in 2010 and 1999, is a nonprofit organization that supports the development of quality alternative break programs by providing training and information to colleges and nonprofit organizations interested in creating lifelong active citizens.

First up are Alternative Weekend Breaks, continuing a program that began last year. "We want people to know that they can be involved with ABP through shorter term opportunities that complement the established weeklong Thanksgiving, spring and May trips," said Misty Newman, Community Service-Learning assistant director for Alternative Break Programs. Student leaders plan ABP trips and JMU faculty and staff members serve as learning partners, participating in work and activities and adding their unique perspective to trip experiences.

Three weekend trips are in pre-proposal stage, including one service opportunity in Washington, D.C., in October that two student leaders are working on. Last year, 15 JMU students, integrated science and technology Professor Michael Deaton and social work Professor BJ Bryson and Associate Professor Cindy Hunter lived as part of a "family" from one of seven developing nations at the Global Jubilee Village in West Virginia.

A dozen students and anthropology Professor Fletcher Linder, director of interdisciplinary liberal studies, rehabilitated an older house to benefit a senior citizen in nearby Verona. That trip was organized as the Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence Alternative Break.

Teams from JMU began volunteering to help clean up on the Gulf Coast in November 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region. Since then, JMU teams have returned to the New Orleans area as the focus has shifted from cleaning up to rebuilding. During Thanksgiving Break (Nov. 19-26), three teams will travel to the city to volunteer at The Phoenix of New Orleans and Project Lazarus and at Caf… 458/Good Samaritan House in Atlanta.

Spring Break may seem far away, but not for planning purposes to organize the 35 Alternative Spring Break trips. Four international ABP trips are already in the works, with potential for more, Newman said. A new trip to Parismina, Costa Rica, will focus on environmental issues, including sea turtle poaching. Other teams will travel to Jamaica and Honduras to work with organizations JMU has partnered with in past years, Center for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill, Volunteer in Jamaica Opportunity Network and Organization for Youth Empowerment.

To help offset costs of Spring Break trips requiring air travel, some proceeds from this year's DR100 Ride Run or Walk (http://www.dr100.org) will benefit the program. The DR100, which was created to honor the life of Dr. Joe Mirenda, is set for Sept. 17.

May 5-12 will find a team from JMU in New Orleans, helping to rebuild structures and lives affected by hurricane-induced flooding.

While the Alternative Break Program webpage is undergoing updating, students, faculty and staff interested in learning more about any of the upcoming trips are encouraged to send email to abp@jmu.edu.

Related Links:
JMU Service: http://www.jmu.edu/service/
Community Service-Learning: http://info.jmu.edu/csl/

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Sept. 14, 2011