Service Stories Archive: Alternative Spring Break 2020

Because of the upcoming introduction of a new University website design, existing Service Stories on the site are being migrated to our Service Learning Blog so that they will remain in our archive.

This article was originally published in 2020.



This Service Story focuses on service completed by 16 students and two staff members in Tampa, FL from March 7-13.

Every year, Associate Director of Leadership and Service, Dr. Deb Kladivko works with a student leadership team to organize opportunities for civic-minded students to dedicate their Spring Break to serving others. These opportunities, called Alternative Spring Breaks (ASB), are designed to  provide students the opportunity to complete service projects at locations outside of the local area and for longer periods of time than typical short volunteerism opportunities.  Students pay a portion of the cost of transportation, meals, and lodging and the University subsidizes the rest. Each year interested students interview for a position on the ASB Student Planning Committee. Successful candidates determine the service location, identify service projects, and plan logistics with Deb in an advisory role.

This year’s team chose to work primarily with Junior Achievement to teach business-related life skills to children and young adults from kindergarten through middle school. Our students went through training and then paired up in classrooms and simulated storefronts in a “BizTown” where students put lessons into practice. The team also served doing maintenance and yard work for Ronald McDonald houses and home projects for CareFest. The group wedged in time for a boat trip on the Gulf and even saw some dolphins.

Student Voices:

We close this Service Story with snippets of reflections from students who served:

Brittany Horres, Student Coordinator, 5x Alternative Break Participant 

  • There is no other way that I would want to spend my spring break than giving back to a community in need… After my first alternative breaks trip, I immediately realized that working for non-profit agencies was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
  • One lesson that I learned from this year’s ASB trip is that sometimes even something that might seem little or disappointing to you can be a big help to someone else. On our first day of service, my group was responsible for tearing down an old fence damaged by a storm and getting posts put in for the new fence. We spent hours working on the fence and were disappointed that we didn’t get everything finished before we had to leave. But then the lady whose house we were working on came out and thanked us for everything we did. She told us that she’s been waiting to get the fence done for months and what we did in one day saved the agency weeks of labor. It just reminded me that the smallest things can mean so much to someone else. Sometimes people just want to know that someone out there cares and wants to help. 

Brandon Mercado, Participant, Freshman

  • Building the fence was our very first service project, so many of us may not have been very comfortable with each other yet, but by the end of the service we had grown a lot closer to each other… When reaching our service site, we realized that our tools were sparse and lackluster. As a group we devised a plan to ask neighbors if we could borrow their tools while the others of us tried to do what we could with what we had. And through our teamwork and many trials and errors, we were able to build a pretty sturdy fence.
  • On the trip, I got to meet new people, make new friends, and give back to the community, while still basking in the Florida sun. Therefore, I would highly recommend anyone to join ASB. It is a great way to make new connections at the university while helping others.

Garrett Black, Planning Committee Member

  • We were teaching these (Junior Acheivement) kids life skills such as saving money and reasons for taxes. Because these elementary children saw young college kids teaching them, they were more receptive and wanted to participate. This showed me that we are always influencing people around us no matter what we do, it is just the matter of if our influence is for the betterment or the worse of the people around us… true education is more than just “lectures.”
  • I learned that in life, if everybody took a little time to serve and help, those little acts of service would add up to a huge impact for the world.


Alternative Spring Break students with Junior Achievement group

Pictured above: Students ready to work with Junior Achievement. 
(Garrett talks about this in his reflection. Everyone worked with JA) 

Alternative Break students work on a remodel

Pictured above: Students remodeling cabinets inside.
(No related snippet above, but these folks worked hard, too!)

Alternative Break students on a boat trip.

Pictured above: Students enjoying a boat trip. 
(Because even on a service trip, there are fun excursions!)