Several students from UM-Dearborn spent their week of Spring Break volunteering their time in New Orleans with Alternative Spring Break. (Photo courtesy of Brendan Gallagher)
Several students from UM-Dearborn spent their week of Spring Break volunteering their time in New Orleans with Alternative Spring Break. (Photo courtesy of Brendan Gallagher)

BY SAMANTHA ELLIOTT, Editor-in-Chief

During last week’s Spring Break, many students jetted off to tropical locations and others stayed at home, holed up with their school books, catching up on weeks worth of homework and reading. But four groups of students from campus crammed into University sponsored vans to various locations around the country to participate in Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

The program is designed for students to “trade their swim trunks for tool belts,” according to the website, and spend a week helping lower income areas affected by tragedy to build new houses and fix up the area. The four groups from UM-Dearborn participated in locations in New Orleans, the Everglades, Harlan, and our very own backyard, Detroit.
Sophomore psychology and political science major Bianca Kea participated at the New Orleans location this year.

“What caught my eye about ASB was the fact that I’ve only heard good things about it, and my school that I went to before UM-D, which was Albion College, didn’t have it. I wanted to try something new,” Kea said.

Kea enjoyed the week and brought away many memorable experiences.

“I think the most rewarding part [of the trip] was making friends with the locals and hearing their stories. I remember the first day of the trip. I told everyone in my van that my goal was to make ten new friends and they all had to be locals. While I only made five and one was a dog, I still loved it,” Kea said.

Junior and special education major Brendan Gallagher worked with Kea during the week in New Orleans.

Gallagher chose ASB to help others whose needs were greater than his own.

“I wanted to make a difference in another person’s life,” Gallagher said. “I have never gotten the chance to volunteer my time outside the state of Michigan and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to do so.”

Junior finance major Aaron Sarver participated in his second ASB trip in New Orleans this year. Like Gallagher, he strives to make a difference during his trips.

“I wanted to participate as a way of giving back to those who are less fortunate that I am,” Sarver said, continuing, “Even though I am a self-supporting student paying my way through school, there are always those who have less and I believe that everyone is called to help their fellow man when he or she is in need of assistance.”

Working in a place that has seen so much tragedy in the aftermath of Katrina had a big impact on those involved last week.

“The most rewarding aspect of this past week was the eye opening experience itself,” said Gallagher, continuing, “I was able to be a part of a rebuilding process that was much larger than the infrastructure of a city but the mentality and spirits of its citizens. The resilience in the people of New Orleans was unparalleled.”

Before volunteering on his first ASB trip, Gallagher wasn’t sure there were still that many people willing to leave what was going on in their lives to go help those who needed it the most.

“This experience has made me view others around me in a whole new light. That there are still people who genuinely care about others and are willing to give up their own time to help others who are worse off than themselves,” Gallagher said.

Although it is a city where tragedy occurred, New Orleans was bustling with energy and welcomed the ASB group with open arms. Along with the experience, the people in the city are something the Dearborn students will never forget.

“The citizens of New Orleans were so loving and passionate about their city and it was obvious to see. From the second I got to New Orleans, the hospitality was something I have never experienced in my life. The people of New Orleans were living in harmony as they understood that in order to revitalize the city, they must all work together in order to do so,” Gallagher said.

Sarver, Kea, and Gallagher each took many experiences and memories away from their trips and encourage all students to consider the idea for 2013.

“The most rewarding aspect this week would have to be doing service and seeing all the smiles and happiness from those who benefited from our service. It’s always great to feel like you’re making a difference,” Sarver said.

Gallagher agreed, stating, “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Spring Break than volunteering my time for a cause much greater than myself.”

Kea’s thoughts mirrored Gallagher’s and Sarver’s.

“I would definitely do it again, this trip was life changing. It helped me see that there’s more to life than grad schools and college parties. I can’t wait to go on another ASB trip,” she said.