Trip options for spring break with CU's Volunteer Resource Center

Disaster Relief: New York and New Jersey, $560

Rebuilding Community: New Orleans, $410-$480

Environmental Conservation: Yosemite Valley National Park, Cali., $450

Environmental Conservation: Moab $450

Youth Education: Boulder Creek, Cali., $360

Urban Poverty: Cincinnati, $585

Nutrition and Wellness: San Francisco, $545

Border Rights: San Diego, $475

Youth Advocacy: Atlanta, $640

Check out: volunteer.colorado.edu/ for more info.

M any students will spend their spring break lounging in a beach chair sipping on mai tais, or enjoying a local staycation full of sleeping in and going out with friends. But last spring, about 150 CU students spent their spring break helping others.

The students traveled together in vans to 10 locations from Florida to California to work with local nonprofit organizations on issues ranging from animal rights to environmental conservation.

CU's Volunteer Resource Center is offering 10 more trips this spring, including working with youth in Atlanta and looking at nutrition and wellness in San Francisco.

The trips range from $360 to $640 per student for the week.

Prices include travel -- students road trip in vans to their location -- lodging and education, though students do not receive course credits for their time, said Megan Frewaldt, assistant director for the Volunteer Resource Center.

"The program is two fold," Frewaldt said. "It gives students opportunities to serve and also to learn about the subject area and get some hands-on experience."

CU graduate Anna Taugher attended an Alternative Breaks trip during all four years of her undergraduate degree, including spending her senior year in New Orleans after being inspired by a story on television about another group of students who spent their break rebuilding the city after Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005.

"When I saw that I thought 'what an awesome way to spend spring break,'" Taugher said. "As soon as I got to CU I started looking for something like that and that's how I found alternative breaks."

A group of about 10-12 students attend each trip. Applications for the trips are open and can be filled out on the VRC's website at colorado.edu/vrc.

Frewaldt said applications are open until the spots are filled but ideally, students should apply by mid February.

Financial aid and scholarships are also available on the website.

Jen Ross, director of the VRC, said the trips are a great way for students to get involved in a service project and often leads to more involvement in the Boulder community. The trips also attract students who are already volunteering in the community and are looking for other ways to serve, Ross said.

"We hope to cultivate social justice issues and community engagement as a priority while giving students the opportunity to see more of themselves by landing in a community and working with the needs that are specific to the community," Ross said. "It's a great opportunity to learn about oneself in relationship to the larger world."

As a freshman, Taugher went to Moab, Utah, and focused on environmental restoration during her first Alternative Breaks trip. Taugher said she was immediately convinced that the service projects were the best way to spend her weeklong breaks.

"I wasn't really bonding with people in the dorms because I wasn't much of a partier, but these trips created such a great community and that's when I really started to connect with like-minded people at CU," Taugher said.

Taugher attended an environmental restoration trip as a sophomore in California and worked at an animal sanctuary in New York as a junior.

"I would be bored if I didn't go anyway," Taugher said. "Laying on a beach is boring, I wanted to make a difference."

During her final year, Taugher said she knew she couldn't leave CU without going to the place that sparked her passion for service.