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Students Combine Fun and Voluteer Work During Alternabreak

Pomona students will combine fun and volunteer work on two alternative Spring Break trips to Northern California in March.

For a single week in March, sometime between midterms and finals, students are offered a respite from the rigors of academia. This year, some Pomona College students are taking a novel approach to Spring Break, replacing unguided leisure with a week of construction and constructive fun.

Two separate Alternabreak trips, both running March 11 to 17, will send 24 students to Northern California for service work ranging from building homes for the needy to helping to tend an elementary-school garden.

”This is an opportunity for students to move beyond the proverbial Pomona bubble, learn about and serve California communities and meet some new folks including fellow students, friends of the College and alumni,” says Volunteer Center Coordinator Maria Tucker.

The program, run through the Volunteer Center with the help of the ASPC, is geared toward students looking for community service opportunities beyond the immediate college community.

“I wanted to do something meaningful,” says Jani Kim ’10, the first eager student to sign up for this year’s event. “And I want to meet new people.”

The first of the two trips will be based in Northern California, where students will work alongside Sacramento Habitat for Humanity to construct homes for those in need in the state capital. The second Alternabreak group will begin in Ventura, slowly painting, planting and building its way northward to the Bay Area.

Among the activities in store is a stop at a Ventura elementary school where volunteers will tend to a student-based garden currently under the supervision of the first grade class of Jayne Tucker, sister of Volunteer Center Coordinator Maria Tucker. Such familial connections seem to be a common theme in this year’s event as alumni and members of the Pomona College extended family will be opening their doors in the spirit of charity to house student volunteers as they make their trek across California.

Students' service work also will include helping out at a Bay Area food bank and at the Marine Mammal Center. But they'll have free time as well. Those on "Road Trip California" can explore Santa Barbara and the San Francisco Bay Area, while students on the Habitat trip get to check out the state capital.

These sorts of service trips have become popular among college students in recent years. Pomona's Alternabreak was initiated in large part by ASPC President Sarah Kuriakose ’07, who has received strong support from the ASPC Senate, Volunteer Center and President David Oxtoby.

“I think it really is a good thing ... for students to get out into the community and for the communities to get access to these students,” Kuriakose said

In the coming years, Alternabreak organizers hopes to expand the concept, offering more students service opportunities in a wider range of locations. The Board of the Alumni Association has already shown support for future trips, considering a larger variety of projects. (Pomona students have other options for Spring Break: On the Loose, the five-college outdoors club, offers a slew of wilderness trips during that time.)

Just weeks before the Spring Break festivities begin, students and organizers alike are excited about this year’s events. Eager students have already filled all of the 24 available spaces, most within the first hour of sign-ups. “I’m so excited about it,” Kuriakose said. “I think Alternabreak is just going to be one of those things that really come to define what going to Pomona means.”