Alternative Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2012
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The Beaches and Parties Can Wait, Say Returning ASB Students
 
By Jordan Duckens
Howard University News Service
 
   
Senior Psychology major Gem Nelson, also a returning participant in the ASB Program, listens with other volunteers to the daily debriefing and reflections. "I wanted to do ASB again because of the smiles I see on the faces of the people we are helping," said Nelson.

ATLANTA -- Alternative Spring Break (ASB) has become routine for Nasira Spells. This marks the third consecutive year the junior from Detroit has passed on Caribbean beaches, other vacation spots or even just a trip home so she could help others during her spring break.

After hearing about the program in her freshmen year through a friend, Spells looked further into the program and discovered the opportunity to go to New Orleans.

“What really stood out to me was going down to New Orleans, because I wanted to help out with the Hurricane Katrina victims,” Spells said. “The fact that it was a free trip to participate in that experience was pretty cool to me.”

During her sophomore year, Spells looked into the other U.S. ASB destinations, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago and Washington, and settled on Atlanta.  She traveled there to focus on youth development.

“I wanted to go to Atlanta, because I’m really big on mentoring and just helping out with younger kids,” she said.

One thing Spells did not expect in Atlanta was to form such a tight bond with the group of fifth graders she mentored at Hope-Hill Elementary School.  She returned to Hope-Hill this year, but because her mentees from last year have since graduated, she missed the opportunity to see them again this year.

She is still dedicated, however, to helping the next group of students matriculating through the school.

“Children are our future, and we have to take care of them and prepare them for the road ahead,” Spells said.
 
Gem Nelson, a senior psychology major, returned for her second year as an ASB participant. The Miami native is no stranger to the allure of the beach, but the opportunity to serve as a mentor drew her to Atlanta a second year.

Senior Nikkia Echols, who is majoring in radio production, also tutored at Hope-Hill, one of two elementary schools where ASB students worked. She listens as one of her students reads the assignment to her.

“I wanted to do ASB again because of the smiles I see on the faces of the people we are helping,” said Nelson, who also celebrated her 24th birthday during the trip. “I appreciate working in the school system and being able to make a positive difference in the lives of children.”

Nelson, who volunteers in the District at the Boys and Girls Club, said she thinks reaching beyond her own community to serve is wonderful.  She encourages every student at Howard to participate at least once.

“We volunteer, we bond and we have fun,” Nelson said. “ASB is a cheaper way to go, a great way to make new friends from different cities and overall, you leave with a good feeling. Once you do it, you’ll probably want to do it again and again.”

Sophomore Larry Sanders, political science and English major, mentors one of his fifth-grade students at Hope-Hill Elementary.  Saunders is one of the many students who returned to participate in another Alternative Spring Break Program.  More than 300 Howard students volunteered to serve in urban communities in five U.S. cities and Haiti.

Though it is a lot of work, Nelson would like to remind the students that it is a lot of fun at the same time.

“Join ASB because it’s a changing experience,” said Nelson. “Give it a try and you will not be disappointed.”

Spells suggests students allow themselves to have a moment of selflessness and give at least one of their four college spring breaks to someone less fortunate.

“Cancun and Puerto Rico aren’t going anywhere,” she said.  “However, these kids, these Hurricane Katrina victims and these victims of gun violence are being forgotten and that has to change. There will be other times for a typical spring break.”

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