Spring Break 2012 - Atlanta
Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013

In ASB, You Don’t Survive Without the Motto: “Open and Flexible”

By Shanice Davis
Howard University News Service

Howard University student volunteers in Atlanta soon learned that roughing it is part of the ASB experience. There were no hotel stays. Instead, it was sleeping on the floor of a local church’s preschool during their week of service.

ATLANTA (March 13, 2013) -- When the participants of Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Atlanta first stepped foot into a local church's preschool that would serve as their home for their week of service, they were surprised and not particularly pleased with their accommodations.
"I knew we were going to be living in modest conditions, but I didn't expect this,” Brittany Ketchup, an Atlanta native and freshman majoring in biology.  “This was the last thing I imagined."

The 45 participants not only had to share five bathrooms among themselves and another group of students staying at the church, but they also had to sleep closely together on air mattresses and in sleeping bags in the preschool's classrooms and kitchen.

Broken toilets and leaks also made using the bathroom and taking showers uncomfortable.   

Breakfast was no picnic either.  On some days, breakfast was just cold cereal.  When hot breakfast was served, not every student got a plate.

ASB Atlanta site coordinator Jasmine Gordon, making her third ASB trip, explained that living rough is just part of the Alternative Spring Break experience.

 "This is a free trip, so you're going to get free quality sometimes,” Gordon said.  “ASB is designed to be an alternative choice."

"Your conditions are supposed to humble you. They're supposed to make you separate yourself from your world to get totally emerged in the subject. You're supposed to disconnect yourself."
Gordon, a junior majoring in chemical engineering major, and her team leaders are required to know how and when to adjust to unforeseen circumstances.

"A lot of times we're dealing with diversity and adversity, and a lot of unexpected things happen,” said team leader George Blount, a junior majoring in history major.  “So we have to persevere and work with the different obstacles and be open to new things and flexible to challenges."

ASB Atlanta concentrated on tackling bullying this year.  They worked at a Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club and at Hope-Hill Elementary School.

Throughout the course of their stay, students learned how to work with their living conditions and make accommodations where necessary.

"I'm just grateful that we have somewhere to stay, because some people don't have it like we do," said Simone Smith, a sophomore majoring in management major.

Mercii Thomas, a team leader and first year graduate student at Howard University, said she believed the participants' circumstances did not overshadow the overall experience of the trip.
"Our living conditions weren't exactly the best,” Thomas said.  “We were very frustrated and uncomfortable when we first arrived here, but immediately when we stepped inside the classrooms we realized it was worth it.  It's something you deal with for a few moments in a day so that you can spend time with a kid for a few more moments the next day."

ASB volunteers soon adjusted to their new living conditions, including many days of cold cereal only for breakfast. But most said it was a life-changing experience.
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