Alternative Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
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First Time Participants Say ASB’s Mission Drove Them to Join
Jordan Duckens  
By Jordan Duckens
Howard University News Service
First Time Participants Say ASB’s Mission Drove Them to Join
Candace L. Byrd, chief of staff for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and the Rev. Robert Wright, pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, were among Howard University Alumni who gathered at Toomer Elementary School to thank the ASB participants for their help in Atlanta.

ATLANTA (March 12)  --- After weeks of preparation and a 12-hour bus ride from Washington, the time had come for Alternative Spring Break (ASB) to become a reality for Jaisa Gooden, a freshman at Howard University studying international business.

It was early Monday morning, the first day for ASB participants in Atlanta, and instead of lying on a beach or staying in bed until noon, Gooden was on her way to John Hope-Charles Walter Hill Elementary School in northeast Atlanta. The school sits just beside the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change on Boulevard Drive.

Gooden, along with nearly 100 other students from Howard, was there serving as a mentor and tutor for the students of Hope-Hill Elementary and Fred Armon Toomer Elementary schools.

After a brief orientation and lunch, Gooden was introduced to her first student of the day and she began her 45-minute tutoring session.  She had been assigned as a reading tutor for six students, three boys and three girls.

“I feel like I got a good taste of a variety of personalities with the kids,” Gooden said as the bus left Hope-Hill Monday afternoon.  “I had some who were wilder, some who were more timid, some who were interested and some who were not. I had to adjust the way I was helping them to fit their individual personalities.”

Her first group of girls was “rowdy,” which made teaching “challenging,” she said. On the other hand, she tutored a boy who was very timid and would barely interact with her.

“It was hard to know if he understood what was going on or if he was just saying he did so he could go back to what he was doing before,” Gooden said.
Despite the challenges she faced during her first day, Gooden was looking forward to what the rest of the week held. She had been awaiting the opportunity to be a part of ASB before she even got her letter of acceptance to Howard.

“I heard about ASB before I even came to Howard,” she said. “Before I applied, I saw ASB on the website and that’s when I looked into it and thought, that’s definitely something that I have to do when I go there.”

The Atlanta native found ASB appealing, she said, because she is passionate about humanitarian work. The fact that there was an opportunity to serve in her place of birth was just a bonus, she added.

Donavon Murphy, a junior broadcast journalism major from Dallas, is also participating in ASB for the first time. He heard about the opportunity when he was a sophomore. He applied to go to Atlanta last year, but was not chosen. He decided to give it another chance, and this time, he was accepted.
“I decided to do ASB because it is a wonderful opportunity to broaden my horizons and actually see how privileged we are to be in the position we’re in,” Murphy said after his first day of mentoring fifth graders at Hope-Hill. “We get to inspire them to be great people and to do great things.”
Murphy said he wanted to work in Atlanta because he liked the program’s focus on youth development. The student population at Hope-Hill Elementary is 95 percent African American and 5 percent Hispanic. 

“I wanted to serve and help children, because one thing I hate seeing is young children fail early in life,” said Murphy. “Without a solid educational foundation, your chances of being successful are slim to none. So, I wanted to help change that.”

Sophomore biology major Chatonya Brown says being a part of Jumpstart, a national education program that recruits college students to mentor and tutor preschool children, inspired her to apply to go to Alternative Spring Break Atlanta. 

“I love community service, and I saw it was going to be a week of mentoring children, and that’s something I like to do,” Brown said.  “So, I thought it was a very good program. It was very unique for college students to be doing community service instead of going out of town and partying.”

Brown is from Hampton, Va., which is only a few hours from Howard University, so she did not mind sacrificing time at home to volunteer in Atlanta.
The morning the buses pulled away from Howard’s campus, the First Lady of Howard, Paula Whetsel-Ribeau, Ph.D., who also serves as director of ASB, told students that the program becomes real for participants at different moments. Brown said ASB became real to her during the last informational meeting on Feb. 26 when Ebony Gamble, the volunteer coordinator at Hope-Hill, spoke to the Atlanta participants.

Gamble told the students how their mentoring helped her students’ performance on mandatory statewide achievement tests.
“She told us that if they didn’t pass that test, they would have to be held back,” Brown said. “I knew this was something big. We are helping them move on, move forward.” Brown encourages other students who haven’t considered ASB to give it a chance.

“I would definitely recommend it,” she said.  “People on the trip still go out and have fun. You’re just integrating community service. You can still have fun and at the same time you’ll be helping others. I just don’t see why you wouldn’t do it.”
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