Brittni Hernandez
Clockwise from left, CU Alternative Breaks participants Emma Hempstead, Dhwani Kothari, Rebecca Frausel, Victoria Kessinger, Malia Myers, Mimi Saine and Kelly Lane sticker condoms at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.


To apply for an Alternative Breaks trip, download an application at . Applications are due by 5 p.m. Wednesday and can be dropped off outside of Room 358 in the University Memorial Center.


Here’s a list of the 10 Alternative Breaks trips scheduled for March 2010.

Catalina Island, Calif. — Volunteers will work with the Catalina Island Conservancy, an organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the island’s land and waters.

Navajo and Zuni Nations, Four Corners area — Volunteers will work with a representative of a tribe in exchange for lectures and conversations about relevant topics related to the particular tribe.

Boulder Creek, Calif. — Volunteers will work as camp counselors for the week at The Camp Campbell Outdoor Science School, assisting teachers in educating students about the environment and field research.

Atlanta — Volunteers will prepare and package meals with Open Hand Atlanta, deliver them to community members and interact with citizens with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

New York City — Volunteers will work with God’s Love We Deliver, a non-religious organization that serves meals to people living with HIV/AIDS by preparing meals and delivering them.

Greenville, Miss. — Volunteers will work with Main Street Greenville and Habitat for Humanity on a variety of community development and revitalization projects.

New Orleans — Volunteers will work with relief organization LowerNine on rebuilding homes, helping out at local shelters, working with youth and helping community members access social services.

Atlanta — Volunteers will work with Essential 2 Life, an organization that helps at-risk youth living in impoverished conditions.

Nashville area, Tenn. — Volunteers will build trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well as work on an organic farm in Nashville, learning about the processes and logistics of organic farming.

Cincinnati, Ohio — Volunteers will work with the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, preparing meals, tutoring GED students, teaching young children and socializing with community members.

University of Colorado students will now be able to volunteer overseas with the college’s Alternative Breaks program, thanks to an exception granted last week by the CU student government.

“International experiences are absolutely life-changing, no matter how long they are,” said CU fifth-year senior Sara Jelley, who led an Alternative Breaks trip to San Francisco last year and studied abroad in Japan the year before. “And there are plenty of places that need college students to go and help out.”

The CU Student Union’s Legislative Council voted unanimously last week to grant Alternative Breaks an exception to a rule prohibiting student-fee money from being used to pay for student groups to travel internationally, said council president and CU senior Blaine Pellicore.

“Everybody thought it was a great idea,” Pellicore said of the exception. “It’s a very cool program. We thought it would open up the appeal (of the program) to more of the student body.”

Alternative Breaks coordinates spring-break volunteer opportunities for students. This year, there are 10. Among them are trips focused on delivering meals to AIDS patients in New York City, building trails in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park and rebuilding homes in New Orleans.

CU junior Meghan Montgomery, Alternative Breaks’s co-coordinator, said the idea to expand internationally started when the program was contacted this fall by 2006 CU graduate Roman Yavich.

After doing research in Nicaragua on a Fulbright scholarship, Yavich helped found an organization there called Comunidad Connect that unites Nicaraguans and visiting foreigners to work on community development projects, including a recycling program in the town of San Juan del Sur.

Yavich asked if Alternative Breaks would like to participate in Comunidad Connect’s “VolunTourism” program, which combines volunteering with more traditional tourist activities. The revenue from the program helps pay Comunidad Connect’s administrative expenses, Yavich said.

“In my search for organizations or people who might be interested in coming to Nicaragua on trips, Alternative Breaks was an easy place to start,” he said.

It seemed like a perfect fit to Montgomery, too, especially since students had been asking about volunteering in different countries, she said.

There was just one problem: CU rules prohibit student-fee money from being spent on international trips.

Even though students pay for their Alternative Breaks trips themselves, the money they raise toward their expenses is deposited in an account held by the Volunteer Resource Center, which oversees Alternative Breaks, and managed by the Student Organizations Finance Office.

Since the Volunteer Resource Center is funded by student fees, money from its account can’t be used to pay for international travel, the regulations say. The exception granted to Alternative Breaks is a recognition that the money raised by students is separate and can be used for that cause.

Montgomery hopes to organize Alternative Breaks’s first international trip — to volunteer with Comunidad Connect in Nicaragua — this summer. Alternative Breaks has only ever organized trips in the spring. She’d like to expand the schedule to include trips over winter and summer breaks too.

International trips will be a bit pricier, but Montgomery said she hopes the experience will be worth the extra expense for some students.

“There’s a glamour aspect to it as well,” she said.

This year’s domestic Alternative Breaks trips cost between $315 and $720. There are 112 slots available, and, thus far, Alternative Breaks only has received about 70 applications, Montgomery said.

Alternative Breaks has extended the deadline to apply until Wednesday in hopes of attracting more students, she said. Montgomery blamed the low number of applicants on problems with the program’s Web site; last year at this time, there were twice as many applicants as there were slots.

Jelley said she’d recommend that students apply. Both of her trips — to a camp in Minnesota for kids affected by HIV and AIDS during her sophomore year, and to San Francisco to volunteer with HIV and AIDS awareness organizations during her senior year — were eye-opening, she said.

“My sophomore year, I didn’t know that much about HIV and AIDS,” she said. “You hear about it; it’s horrible virus and (you should) wear a condom and all that.

“But we actually got to meet some of these kids who have HIV, and their hope in the face of that is amazing. That showed me the real value of community service, as well, and how much even helping one person’s life could help spread compassion.”

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