An Alternative Spring Break trip close to home

Francisco Castro, Contributor

Tarleton Serves will be organizing its fifth annual Alternative Spring Break trip for Spring Break 2018.

The purpose of Alternative Spring Break is to “allow students to spend their spring break conducting community service projects,” said Erin Warner, the Community Service Programs Coordinator for Campus Life. “Over the years, we’ve traveled to Alabama, Colorado, South Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana. While there, we conducted services that ranged from natural disaster relief to Habitat for Humanities projects”

This year’s trip will actually be in-state and close to home. Tarleton Serves plans to travel to South Texas with the intent to assist in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.

“It didn’t seem right for us to travel to some other place and provide service there when our own home was in need of a lot of help,” said Becca Hanson, President of Tarleton Serves. “So it’ll be nice to be able to go down there and help our own people.”

With about 300 Tarleton students who called South Texas their home and many more fellow Texans who had to relocate, the organization is very passionate and motivated to conduct this year’s trip and help repair the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“During the trip, we expect to be conducting clean-up, home restoration, saving what is still salvageable, things of that nature,” said Warner. “As for lodging, it varies on where we are going. One year, we stayed at a dormitory at a nearby college, the other we stayed in cabins at a summer campground.”

This Alternative Spring Break trip to South Texas will act as a continuation to the previous fundraising projects Tarleton Serves conducted during the Fall 2017 semester to support the relief efforts.

“Tarleton Serves partnered with SGA and RHA to conduct an item donation drive to collect toiletry items, hygiene items, and various other items,” said Warner. “They also conducted the dollar drive in various locations on-campus, where students could donate money for the relief effort. We also designed and sold the ‘Houston Strong’ t-shirts through the bookstore, and all the money we made from the t-shirts went to the relief efforts. In total, we raised $4,000 for the relief effort last semester.”

Students who wish to participate in the Alternative Spring Break must fill out an application on TexanSync no later than Jan. 31. The cost for participation is $100, and students must have a 2.5 or higher GPA. According to Erin Warner, participants are required to participate in a mandatory service event, an informational meeting, a Ted Talks leadership experience, and in fundraising efforts.

“The cost per student is about $550 for transportation, room and board,” said Warner. “The students are only asked to pay $100, so we have various fundraising efforts to compensate for the remaining costs, and we ask that students participate in these fundraising efforts. Right now, we have 30 students signed up, and we plan to take 50 students this year. This is the most we’ve ever taken. In 2016, we took 27 students, and in 2017, we took 15 students.”

When asked how she felt about taking this many students, Warner answered, “Super excited. Tarleton Serves has been working hard making Alternative Spring Break more well-known as well as trying to create a culture of service within the campus community. It’s really exciting to know that so many students are participating in this program that the Tarleton Serves group has worked so hard on.”

Since it was first created in 2015, Tarleton Serves has continued to organize and execute these Alternative Spring Break projects.

“Tarleton Serves was actually birthed out of Alternative Spring Break,” said Warner. “The students who participated at that time were very passionate about the Alternative Spring Break program, and the students and I wanted to spread that idea of community service out throughout the entire school year. As a result, Tarleton Serves was started, with the Alternative Spring Break program being one of their first projects.

“Whenever they participate during the week of Alternative Spring Break, I ask that the students remember that they are a representative of Tarleton State, to behave themselves accordingly, exhibit the Core Values, and participate and engage in the leadership and service experience of the project,” said Warner.

“I only ask that anyone who wishes to participate in Alternative Spring Break to be active in all of the projects and activities,” said Hanson. “That way, everyone who participates will have had the full experience and have something to reflect on.”