Alternative spring break program accepting applications

Portland State’s Student Leaders for Service (SLS) is now accepting applications for its alternative spring break program for those interested in civic engagement.

Portland State’s Student Leaders for Service (SLS) is now accepting applications for its alternative spring break program for those interested in civic engagement. Participants will spend the week of spring break working on a service project at one of four different locations.

Alternative spring break coordinator Angie Rowe started the program last year as a transfer student. Rowe was surprised that PSU—a school devoted to a theme of civic engagement—had no established program. According to Rowe, colleges all across the nation have alternative spring break programs, including both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon.

Last spring break, the first time a PSU group participated in the program, 12 students traveled to Oakland, Calif. and built homes with Habitat for Humanity.

“It seemed like a much more impacting way to spend spring break,” said Erin Glesne-Smith, a PSU student who went on last year’s trip. “I knew about Habitat [for Humanity] ahead of time. I was glad to give my time to an impressive non-profit.”

This year, there are three different trip options, each serving a distinct need within the specific community.

In Bellingham, Wash., students will be partnering again with Habitat for Humanity, building homes as part of its Collegiate Challenge campaign.

“We got to work with the people who were moving into the homes we were helping to build,” Glesne-Smith said of last year’s trip.

The second trip option is San Francisco, Calif. Students participating at this location will be working with Project Open Hand and Glide Memorial Church to serve meals to the homeless population of the greater San Francisco area.

According to Rowe, Glide Memorial Church is responsible for serving the homeless community three full meals per day, 364 days a year. Participants on this trip will also be working with people who have terminal illnesses and those living with HIV/AIDS.

The third trip will be located in Grass Valley, Calif. Students at this location will partner with local sustainable farmers. They will learn about organic and sustainable agricultural practices as well as the necessity for safe and organic food distribution and production, Rowe said.

There will also be local community service opportunities around Portland during the week of spring break. PSU will partner with Habitat for Humanity, the ReBuilding Center, Friends of Trees and Woodlawn Elementary School. Prospective participants can work for a single day, or all five days of spring break.

In just one year of existence, the program has grown from one location with 12 students to three locations with 30 students. Two preselected team leaders will organize each trip option.

“The goal is to expand the program and keep on expanding it,” Rowe said.

To her, that means more trip options and more available room for student participation. She and SLS hope to one day have a formal alternative spring break office and department.

“We want to create a sustainable and permanent program [that] promotes civic engagement,” Rowe said.

According to Rowe, what makes the program unique is the combination of both the physical labor and the service learning opportunities of the program. Not only do the students feed the homeless, but also they learn about the causes of poverty and the possible ways to prevent it.

Commenting on last year’s program, Glesne-Smith said, “It was extremely challenging, but also really fun.”

PSU students interested in participating can apply online or pick up an application from the SLS office located at 303 Cramer Hall. However, not all who apply will be able to attend, as there are only about 30 available spots. Ten students are selected for each trip, not including the two team leaders. Interviews will be part of the application process.

“We are looking for someone interested in civic engagement above and beyond a one-time experience,” Rowe said.

The cost of participation is $250 per student. This fee covers the cost of transportation, fuel, accommodations and food for the entire duration of the trip. Additional fundraising activities for selected applicants will supplement other costs.

Applications for the out-of-state trips will be accepted through Nov. 19, and registration for Portland projects will be available in February of 2011.?

*This article has been edited to correct the name of a nonprofit partnering with PSU