Paul Aiken
Anna Taugher, will be taking her alternative spring break to New Orleans. She was photographed in the Volunteer Resource Center on the CU Boulder Campus on Wednesday March 21, 2012.

Since high school, University of Colorado senior Anna Taugher has been dreaming about waking up at 5 a.m. Saturday and loading into a cramped van of about 10 students she doesn’t know since high school.

As a high school senior, Taugher said she saw a story on television about a group of students who spent their spring break in New Orleans helping rebuild 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.”

Taugher is one of about 150 students who spending their spring break doing community service across the country through CU’s Volunteer Resource Center Alternative Breaks program.

The students will travel 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.

Jen Ross, director of the Volunteer Resource Center, 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 — something that has also helped her advance in her ecology and evolutionary biology major. During her junior year, Taugher worked at an animal sanctuary in New York.

“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.

“I’m so excited to go to the place that really started all of this for me,” Taugher said. “I knew my time here wouldn’t be complete until I went there.”

The trips typically cost between $350 to $600 per student. Students will return to Boulder Saturday before classes resume on April 2.

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