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MU Offers Service-Oriented Spring Break Alternatives

March 7th, 2011

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— While thousands of college students flock to locations like Cancun, Florida or Europe for spring break, many University of Missouri students choose to spend their free time volunteering. Mizzou Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is celebrating its 20th year this spring with record numbers: more than 190 participants will make 17 trips to areas in need across the nation.

MU students play with children during a 2010 Alternate Spring Break trip.

MU students play with children during a 2010 Alternate Spring Break trip.

MU students will serve marginalized populations around the nation on a variety of projects relating to issues such as HIV, food access and environmental conservation. In Dallas, participants will volunteer with three nonprofit organizations serving the area’s large homeless population by renovating houses, tutoring children and working in soup kitchens. In South Dakota, students will work on housing projects to aid a Native American reservation experiencing a housing crisis.  In Xenia, Ohio, volunteers will assist 4 Paws for Ability, which trains service dogs to provide companionship and increase the ability of people with disabilities to live independently.

Political science senior Liz Augustine, an ASB executive board member and former president, traveled with Mizzou Alternative Spring Break to Florida Keys her freshman year and to Memphis, Tennessee her sophomore year. She says the trips can be life-changing experiences for students, many of whom return passionate about helping others.

“These trips really help to broaden students’ horizons,” Augustine said. “Many people go with no background of social justice issues and come back as advocates for a cause.”

This spring Augustine will lead a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, where students will work with children with disabilities in activities such as adaptive gardening, baseball and therapeutic riding. She says the trips can be humbling experiences that change students’ perspectives on their daily lives.

“I could never imagine the struggles the families at St. Jude Hospital face or the amount of energy and resources it takes to bounce your family back after Katrina,” Augustine said. “It’s amazing what people all over the world face on a daily basis. No matter how hard my life might seem, my problems are tiny compared to what others face every day.”

The total combined budget for all trips will be more than $65,000, most of which will be raised by the participants and site leaders during the next two months. Fundraising allows Mizzou ASB to minimize students’ out-of-pocket expenses and guarantees some of the lowest participant fees in Missouri and the Big 12. 

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