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University Relations

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March 17, 2005
Contact: Todd Cohen, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

KU's Alternative Breaks program sends 60 to do service work across the country

Click here to view participants listed by home county or state

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Students shun beaches to broaden their horizons

Learning firsthand of struggles by gays

LAWRENCE -- Next week 60 University of Kansas students will forgo the stereotypical college spring break on a beach and instead will volunteer at nine sites around the country helping agencies that address such issues as health care, homelessness and environmental preservation.

The university's student-run Alternative Spring Break program is a class that centers on a service trip during spring break, March 19 through 26. The goal is to give KU students a unique opportunity to volunteer and grow on a personal level. The program costs participants $200 each. Completing an Alternative Spring Break counts as one honors unit for the KU Honors Program.

This spring's particpants will help develop Patch Adams' Gesundheit! Institute in West Virginia, an alternative health care center; restore native plant species along the Jordan River in Utah; tutor students in northern New Mexico; prepare and serve meals for the homeless in Washington, D.C.; and work with deaf, blind and sensory multi-disabled children in South Carolina.

Alternative Breaks was established at KU in 1995 with a spring break trip to El Paso, Texas. Since then, it has expanded to include winter, spring and weekend break programs with more sites and opportunities to volunteer being added every year.

2004-05 spring break sites

The Gesundheit! Institute, Hillsboro, W.Va., five participants
Health care
Gesundheit! was founded by Patch Adams, M.D., as a creative response to an impersonal health care center, and a main goal of the institution is to make health care a joyful service. A rural hospital in West Virginia is being developed in hopes of providing holistic health care. Possible projects include construction, trail maintenance, gardening and possible visits to area hospitals or nursing homes.

Teach for America, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, five participants
Teach for America is the national corps of college graduates coming from all academic majors committed to teaching for two years in urban and rural under-resourced public schools. Participants each will shadow a member of the Teach for America team for the week and work directly with students and staff in the classroom.

National Coalition for the Homeless, Washington, D.C., seven participants
Urban homelessness
NCH engages in public education, policy advocacy and grassroots organizing for homeless issues. Participants will work at homeless shelters and prepare and serve meals at various kitchens. Students also may help with various NCH projects and are required to participate in an urban plunge, a real-life immersion program where participants will live on the streets for 48 hours.

Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Taos, N.M., eight participants
RMYC recognizes and engages the strengths and potential of youth through team service in the community, schools and landscapes of northern New Mexico. Participants will complete a variety of service projects, which may include afternoon tutoring, classroom help, environmental stewardship and community improvement.

Tree Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, seven participants
Tree Utah works to restore native plant species along the Jordan River to attract once-abundant migratory birds. Participants will learn about tree and bird species and will be introduced to local environmentalists. Participants also will plant trees along the river and work with urban community gardens to help prepare for spring planting.

South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, Spartanburg, S.C., six participants
SCSDB works with deaf, blind and sensory multi-disabled individuals to provide educational, vocational and developmental services to them. Volunteers will work with visually impaired students ages five and older and will work on projects that will help to further educate and develop the visually impaired individuals.

Bonaventure House, Chicago, Ill., 10 particpants
The Bonaventure House enables people living with HIV or AIDS to live as independently as possible. More than 300 people have received housing and social support at the Bonaventure House, where the average stay among patients is 139 days. Participants will help with social activities, prepare and serve meals, and interact with the 30 residents and 10 staff members.

Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Salt Lake City, Utah, five participants
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues
Students on this trip will work with several organizations in Salt Lake City that are devoted to achieving respect and equality for the homosexual, bisexual and transgender community. Some of the larger issues for these organizations include the right to legal same-sex marriage, spousal benefits for partners and adoption rights. Volunteers will spend much of the week working with Salt Lake City's LGBT youth.

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Ariz., seven participants
Since 1933, the giant saguaro cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. Preserved along with it are many other members of the Sonoran Desert community -- other cacti, desert trees and shrubs, and animals. In lushness and variety of life, the Sonoran Desert far surpasses all other North American deserts. Participants will camp at Saguaro, improving trail maintenance and helping to remove non-native plant species.


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