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San Diego native Christina Smith remembers vividly when it struck her last year how important it was to be in Chicago for spring break rather than on a beach back home. “We were talking to the students, and one of them told me how his aunt owned a store in his neighborhood, but it was too dangerous for him to walk to the store and visit her,” Smith, 20, recalled. And everybody could tell you a story about a friend or someone from their family who had been killed.” Smith and other Howard students are back in Chicago to fight gun violence as part of the as part of the university’s annual Alternative Spring Break Program.
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For many of the dozens of students in Atlanta this week to help during Alternative Spring Break (ASB), the experience is a familiar one. While they may not have come to Atlanta, many have worked in New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit or Washington during the annual program when hundreds of Howard students volunteer to help in underserved communities.
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They could have gone to any of a dozen cities where the comforts of home awaited them. They could have hopped onto a plane and headed for a beach on the Florida coast or more exotic locales, like Jamaica, the Bahamas or Cozumel. Instead, they have skipped the beach or the trip back home to help educate children and to talk with other students on the importance of continuing their education after high school. Their work here from March 15 to March 19 is part of the university’s annual Alternative Spring Break, in which every year hundreds of students volunteer to participate in the student-run, student financed program.
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In Detroit, unemployment is hovering near 20 percent percent, the number of home foreclosures are rampant and the there are lots of gray, overcast skies as the winter trudges along. So, what would make dozens of students trade spring break in Miami or Cancun for a week in Detroit? Because the rate of illiteracy rate in is one of the highest in the nation. Instead of taking a leisure vacation at the typical spring break destinations, these Howard students have chosen to help the local Detroit students and adults who are struggling with their reading skills.
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Scores of Howard Students Work on Environment in New Orleans
Since Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans Aug 20, 2005 and left billions of dollars in damage, scores of Howard University students have been going to New Orleans to help the city’s restoration. In previous years, they painted and repaired damaged homes and buildings or hauled away trash. This year, the 80 undergraduate students going to New Orleans will tackle environmental restoration.
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