Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Students use school breaks for community service

For most students, fall break is a time of relaxation in an otherwise stressful period as the semester nears its end. With thousands departing from Tuscaloosa to head for home or vacation, another group of students decided to spend its fall break in a different way.

University of Alabama students in the Alternative Break program got their hands dirty as the UA Community Service Center collaborated with Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Alabama in an effort to help the local communities.

“These UA volunteers are students who are giving their time to work hard and serve other families during their fall break, instead of visiting their families or taking a vacation,” Teressa Clark, resource director at the Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Alabama, said. “At Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Alabama, we work together to put people in need into safe, decent and affordable housing so they have a secure foundation to pursue a higher quality of life. Without volunteers, this mission would not be possible.”

One participant on the trip was Mikaela Becker, a freshman from Germantown, Wis.

“My roommates left for fall break, and I was looking for something to do,” Becker said.

Students and faculty set out Wednesday, Oct. 30, and spent the next several days doing everything from clearing trees and brush on a parcel of land under development, to sorting magazines and moving boxes for a local library. But it wasn’t all hard work.

“Everyone was super nice and really fun to hang out with,” Becker said. “We’re already making plans to hang out tomorrow night.”

The program offers trips to places abroad in addition to local excursions. Sophomore Mariah Russell traveled with the program last summer to the Dominican Republic.

“We mainly focused on the health care aspect,” Russell said. “So we did a lot of work conducting medical clinics, assisting in hospitals and things like that. We also were able to help in a local orphanage. We helped in their feeding program, and we helped in a refugee area. It was a lot of fun.”

Though fall break is now over, Kim Montgomery, assistant director of the UA Community Service Center, said that there are plenty of upcoming opportunities for students to participate in one of the many Alternative Break projects.

“The way our Alternative Break program runs is, for each break (fall, winter, MLK, spring break and May interim), we offer students a domestic trip and an international trip,” Montgomery said.

Students can get involved by going to the Community Service Center’s website at and picking out a trip. For those who may have financial limitations, there are still opportunities.

“We try to make all of our UA Away trips affordable,” Montgomery said. “UA Away offers scholarships for our international trips.”

Mariah Russell received one of these scholarships for her trip to the Dominican Republic.

“If it had not been for that [scholarship], I would not have been able to go, and I was very grateful for that,” Russell said. “It’s actually really easy. You just apply online. You have to answer a few response questions and write a short essay.”

For those students who want to have an even greater level of involvement with the Alternative Break program, the Community Service Center also hires students to help plan and organize the trips.

“We also hire, each semester, student directors and student assistant directors who kind of implement the Alternative Break program,” Montgomery said. “For instance, I’m going on the trip, but I’m going as a chaperone. It’s been planned by the students. So once we pick our locations, based on where needs are, based on where work is available for the students, then we plan cultural and recreational activities for the students. If it really interests you, if there is somewhere close to your heart or if you are from somewhere, then joining our staff as a director or assistant director is another way to get involved.”

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