Alternative Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
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Nathaniel Gerald Returns to Atlanta, But This Year as a Team Leader
Jordan Duckens  
By Jordan Duckens
Howard University News Service
 
   
Nathaniel Gerald Returns to Atlanta, But This Year as a Team Leader
Sophomore Nathaniel Gerald worked with ASB in Atlanta last year and liked it so much that he return for 2012, but this time as a team leader.  His new position carries much more responsibility.  Along with the site coordinator, Gerald was responsible for getting dozens of ASB participants to their assignments on time. Photo by Charles S. Canady, Howard University

ATLANTA (March 14) – There was one word that brought sophomore Nathaniel Gerald back to Atlanta for Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in 2012 -- sankofa.   The Ghanaian word expresses the idea of taking good things from the past in order to make positive changes in the future.

“One thing I was taught when I was younger was the meaning of ‘sankofa’,” Gerald said. “I’ve had a lot of positive experiences growing up where older people have come and invested a lot in me, pushed me along and taught me some things. So I just wanted to do that for someone else.”

So, that is why Gerald came here with nearly 100 other Howard students – to help someone.  It was his second consecutive year in Atlanta.  He wants to improve the future of the young pupils of Hope-Hill Elementary School and Fred Armon Toomer Elementary School where he will be tutored during his week here.

He enjoyed his previous ASB so much that he decided to take it up a notch, and this year he volunteered to become a team leader. Though the Cleveland native speaks in soft tones that may make him appear timid, there is an ease and clarity in his voice that reveals a natural and passionate leader.

“This time I am using my position as team leader to practice my leadership skills to encourage and motivate others,” he said.

Team leaders serve as liaison between the site coordinator and the participants on their team. They resolve conflicts and look after the mental and emotional well-being of the students on the trip. Gerald said his role was especially important this year because so many of this year’s Atlanta participants were new to ASB.

“Not many of them were used to the long hours of community service or the situations we were placed in throughout the day,” he said.

According to Gerald, two of the most important qualities a team leader can have are being open and flexible. Because the trip was free for all students, problems may arise with accommodations, scheduling or meals. Team leaders are responsible for keeping the morale high, regardless of the circumstances.
Team leaders are also responsible for making sure their team is present and on time to each community service event. Participants are up every day before 8 a.m. and arrive at the school by 10:30 a.m.

“Getting people to wake up early in the morning is not the easiest thing,” Gerald said.

            At the end of day, after the service projects are completed, each team meets together to reflect on their experiences.

            “It’s one thing just to do something and move on, but we take the time to sit down and share stories and experiences with others,” Gerald said.  

Those moments of reflection help the students understand the impact they are having on the people they come across while they are volunteering, Gerald said. Participants can learn from their team members’ reflections and use others’ experiences to do better the next day.

            “It’s an amazing experience that challenges you as a student leader,” Gerald said with a laugh. “I’ve learned many things about myself.”

Nathaniel Gerald Returns to Atlanta, But This Year as a Team Leader
Gerald watches on as one the students he tutored at Hope-Hill elementary complete assignments.  Nearly 100 Howard students mentored and tutored students and helped send thousands of books to children and adults in Africa during their week in Atlanta.  One of Gerald’s jobs was to keep up morale among the students.Photo by Charles S. Canady, Howard University
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