By Vivian Lanzot, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Director, Civic Engagement
Many colleges and universities are in the midst of or are getting ready for Spring Break. Although some of students are traveling and having the traditional “vacations” during spring break, many are looking for a way to make a positive impact on their communities during this time off. More and more schools have encompassed the idea of an Alternative Spring Break program to provide students with opportunities to volunteer and build experiences. At New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Alternative Spring Break was created in 2013 to assist communities in their post –Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts. During the first year of the program, over 567 college volunteers participated. Students from NJIT and 23 other colleges as well as faculty, staff and alumni helped eradicate some of the devastation from Superstorm Sandy. Over 600 registered to participate in beach sweeps and park cleanups, deconstructing homes or finishing work (painting or simple carpentry) and surveying communities.
Since 2013, Alternative Spring Break has continued as a tradition at NJIT. Each year, students sign-up for volunteer projects throughout the local Newark community as well as at non-profits across the state. Each service projects provides students with the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom as well as the important soft skills employers most seek such as leadership, ability to work in a team, initiative, communication skills, and interpersonal skills. To date we have had a total of 1,541 student, staff and alumni volunteers impacting communities. This year, we add 130 registered students with 16 community agencies for Alternative Spring Break 2018. With the outcome of the latest disasters, domestic and beyond, NJIT’s Alternative Spring Break will continue to engage our students in service that impacts the community and will allow them to not only have an experiential experience but to have a lesson in citizenship. It is a true part of a student’s career and civic development. As a career center, we are happy to have helped support the community and student development.