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Spring break at a homeless shelter

Students find a charitable alternative to spend their week off

Instead of spending spring break at beach resorts, some students chose a more charitable alternative by volunteering at homeless shelters in Baltimore City.

As students make their way back to classes after a week long vacation, many will ask and be asked “What did you do on your spring break?” Although spring break is notorious for college students letting loose, some sought a more charitable alternative.

This year, 36 students chose to spend their hiatus from classes working long hours in the city of Baltimore and other local areas to engage in an alternative spring break (ASB) program.

One such service-learning program is the Homelessness Trip. Mark Zachar, one of the coordinators of UMBC Serves, said, “This ASB trip is designed to educate participants about the plight of homelessness in the hopes of eliminating stigma and uncovering the intricate complexities of homelessness.”

By participating in small daily projects and reflecting on underprivileged lifestyles, it is hoped that the stigma toward such areas and individuals will be reduced.

Markya Reed and Megan Lynch, both juniors and social work majors, were in charge of the Homelessness Trip this year. They both attended the ASB trip last year and loved it, which was one of the primary reasons they decided to apply to be leaders.

Reed sees the program as more than just a service job.”It was the most meaningful experience I’ve had so far at UMBC,” said Reed. “It’s all about education outside the classroom and getting to know the people around you and your community.”

A typical day on the Homelessness Trip consisted of helping the shelters in any way possible, whether it was serving food, distributing resources or sparking up a conversation with clients. Some students even provided resources and contacts for local jobs.

After a long day at the shelters, students would return to UMBC and have group discussions to reflect on their daily experiences.

It’s a rather grounding experience that teaches students the value of community service and teaches empathy towards all people. Having the opportunity to positively influence the lives of underprivileged people is one of the many benefits of participating in such a program.

“[Community service] was always something that was important to me in middle school and high school and I wanted to continue that on my college campus,” Lynch said.

Applications for 2016 ASB begin next October. Any student interested in taking part in a cause such as the Homelessness Trip or any of the other ASB programs should contact UMBC Serves or Student Life for more information.