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Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013
Alternative Spring Break Detroit Epitomizes “Be Open, Be Flexible” Motto

By Naomi Venerable
Howard University News Service

Rachel Solomon, a sophomore public relations major, helps Ashely Johnson, 3, brush her teeth at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church Head Start.

DETROIT (March 14. 2013) Sophomore Rachel Solomon, journalism major, hopes to one day own a public relations firm.

On Wednesday, March 13, however, the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native found herself in a field much different from the communications career that she is pursuing.

Solomon put on latex gloves, grabbed a tube of toothpaste and small toothbrushes to show pre kindergarten students Ashley Johnson, Ricky Owens and, Hailey Walker about oral hygiene, gently guiding the children’s hands to brush all sides of their teeth and tongue.

She was one of 50 Howard University students engaged with a small group of tiny preschoolers at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church Head Start program.   Earlier in the week, Howard students had worked mentoring and tutoring large groups of Detroit high school students.

Meyoski McSwain, center manager, at the Tabernacle Missionary Head Start, told the students what to expect from the students.

“They're going to have fun with you, but you're going to learn some things,” McSwain said.  “In early childhood development, you find yourself brushing teeth, painting with the children and putting a band-aid on a scratch.”

The students in Detroit are part of more than 400 Howard University students who chose to spend their spring break serving as participants in the university’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program. Instead of visiting Caribbean beaches, taking a vacation or other spring break activities, they committed to helping others in seven cities – Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis New Orleans and Washington – and Haiti.

In Detroit, they sanitized toys, interacted with children through song and dance, and created an indoor playground at the Tabernacle Missionary Head Start, which mostly serves poor children. They also worked at a local Salvation Army, helping cook and serve lunch.

Catrisha House, educational instructor for the program, which services children ages 3 to 5, said she was truly appreciative of the Alternative Spring Break participants.

“I enjoy watching the children grow socially and emotionally from the interactions with Howard students,” House said.

Solomon said she was glad she could contribute to Alternative Spring Break’s key message, “be open and flexible.”

“When I was asked to assist the children brush their teeth I was surprised, but it was just another opportunity to serve and make a difference in the lives of such young children, she said.”

The Tabernacle Head Start program serves families with low incomes of diverse and cultural backgrounds in Midtown Detroit. Also known as The Order of the Fisherman Ministry Head Start, Tabernacle Missionary Head Start is one of eight agencies contracted by Detroit’s Human Department Services and funded by the federal government to provide Head Start services for free to the children of 629 families of Detroit. 

The Head Start program was one of the eight sites for ASB Detroit participants.

Andreya Davis, the ASB Detroit site coordinator and a member of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, said she thought the week went well.

“Howard University students have made a lasting impression in the service projects they have done,” Davis said.

Tracey Gant, a junior sports management major and business administration minor from Chicago, worked with 3 to 5-year-olds with arts and craft projects.

“This is the best time in a child's life,” Grant said with a broad smile.  “Why not live it happily.   I am glad I can connect and interact with students who might not be able to receive these services elsewhere.”

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