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Alternative Spring Break increases in popularity

November 19, 2008

While many MSU students use spring break to party or lie on the beach, others will use the time off to help the environment.

Alternative Spring Break, or ASB, is a student organization that allows students to use their week off for service activities. The trips are divided into nine categories, ranging from those with an environmental focus to disaster relief.

Within the environmental focus, there are five trips for students to choose from.

“It’s a chance to do something a little more meaningful,” said Kevin Schwemmin, a Student Services assistant that works with ASB. “They still get to do fun stuff but they get to do stuff that is beneficial to others than themselves.”

The environmental trips include working on the Cumberland Trail in Tennessee; cleaning up the rainforest in El Yunque, Puerto Rico; working in the forest and on an organic farm in Cartagena, Costa Rica; helping at a school and improving the environment of the area in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico; and helping restore the Hiawassee River watershed in North Carolina.

The groups are comprised of 12 people — nine participants, two student site supervisors and one staff adviser.

“All trips are limited to 12 for logistical reasons,” said Colleen Gitter, an elementary education senior and co-chair of ASB. “Smaller groups are better — students tend to get more out of the trips.”

This year, Gitter said ASB saw a record number of applicants. There is a waiting list of about 80 people total for all the programs.

It also was the first year that it wasn’t held on a first come, first served basis. The selection process is now more application- and essay-based, Gitter said.

“It was to help focus folks on the service aspects of the program and to help select participants who are interested in the services’ pieces and not folks who just want to go to Costa Rica because it sounds cool,” Schwemmin said.

ASB is housed under the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement but isn’t funded by the university. Students pay for the trips, said Lisa Devereaux, accounting senior and finance chair of ASB.

The prices for the environmental trips range from $475 – $1,325.

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