When most people think of “college students” and “spring break,” they picture crowded beaches filled with partying students ““ and some Aggies will certainly join them ““ but for other Aggies, it’s an opportunity to take a break from their academic responsibilities to help others. And many of these students will return from spring break service projects and immediately start gearing up to take part in Big Event, the largest one-day student-run service project in the nation, scheduled for March 29 in the Bryan-College Station area.
Texas A&M even has a student organization called “Alternative Spring Break” that was formed in 2000 just for the purpose of providing students the opportunity to serve others during their week away from campus. Several groups of Aggies will pay their own way to travel to various places around the country to volunteer their services.
Although no central clearing house exists to keep track of all of the spring break and year-around service projects being undertaken by Aggies — in many cases, they just do them without public notice or fanfare — several student projects have been confirmed.
While many such projects are expected to be carried out around Texas, those being conducted out of state are more challenging logistically and involve more planning and related endeavors so university officials are more aware of them, officials note.
In Little Rock, Ark., one group of students will volunteer at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They will assist staff with a variety of tasks, ranging from administration to work to playing with and taking care of the children. At Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, students will spend the week doing cave restoration and working to preserve endangered plant and wildlife species.
Two groups will travel to New Orleans. One group interested in energy conservation will be able to volunteer with Green Light New Orleans in a variety of tasks such as helping to reduce the carbon footprint of residents by installing energy efficient light bulbs and planting gardens. The second group of students interested in animals will volunteer at Animal Rescue of New Orleans to care for mistreated or disabled animals and aid in the running of the shelter.
In Memphis, students will volunteer with Mid-South Food Bank by sorting food and other work to help feed the hungry in that area.
Rachael Cadena, a campus minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, an Aggie Catholic student organization, says this year the students are doing two specific mission trips. Cadena and Fr. Barry Cuba, will lead a group of 17 students into the mountains of Honduras where they will work with a group called the Missioners of Christ. They will do many different projects helping the poor in Honduras and assisting the priests in ministering to the people.
“In Honduras one priest will be in charge of the spiritual care of a large number of people. In the areas we will be visiting,” Cadena explains, the priest will live in one larger town and minister to another 30 or 40 smaller villages scattered throughout the mountains at a distance of 3-4 hours by vehicle. We will join four other college spring break programs and visit up to 25 of the villages between all of us.”
The second group of seven students will go to Houston to work with a number of different organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Medical Bridges and possibly The Beacon and Target Hunger Pantry.
Cadena says still other Aggies will join groups participating in a medical mission to Guatemala.
Memorial Student Center (MSC) Freshman Leadership International will take 30 people, 22 of whom are freshmen, to the Texas A&M Soltis Research Center in Costa Rica for five days. While they are there, the students provide service work at two sites ““ the Soltis Center, where they work on a variety of projects (last year they built a walking path and a garden at the center), and the local school where they do odd jobs and work with the kids on games and craft projects. The students also take several guided hikes to learn more about the rainforest and go up to the volcano located there near the Soltis Center. They also zipline over the rainforest and spend a day in the town of La Fortuna.
Members of the Aggie Men’s Club are going to a place called Mustard Seed Communities in Kingston, Jamaica. This is a Christian operated housing community that cares for kids who have different sorts of special needs. Collin Cooper, who is leading the group, said they are thrilled to be able to show the love of Jesus to people often overlooked by society.
“In a nut shell, we get to tell down syndrome teenagers why they are our heroes, blind individuals who have never seen a thing, how beautiful they are and teen moms with HIV that they are cherished, appreciated and loved.”
Other Aggies, individually and in groups, will work with churches, community action agencies and charities as they live out the university’s core values of leadership, excellence, integrity and selfless service.
Media contact: Tura King, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4670