With the coming of spring each year, communities across the nation look forward to the arrival of new groups of Suffolk students who perform community service during Alternative Spring Break. Instead of vacationing, these students devote their time off to volunteering, and yet they find time for fun as they serve.

The Center for Community Engagement is sending 132 students to 11 separate destinations, where they will work on projects that include Habitat for Humanity home building, environmental work, LGBTQ advocacy, and mentoring children.

Building community

Since Suffolk launched its first Alternative Spring Break in 2000, students have returned to help out in some of the same communities many times. And while the student faces change from year to year, members of each group form strong bonds with one another and with the people they meet.

“I like that it brings what otherwise seems like a random group of people together,” said student Ellin Tomlinson, who as Alternative Spring Break scholar has worked all year to plan the logistics for the 2015 trips and is volunteering for her third time this year.

Each group is accompanied by two facilitators drawn from the University staff, and Tomlinson said that these people “get to know students in a new way.”

Reflections on common cause

As they work with families who will live in the houses they are building or groups that have faced discrimination, the students discuss the social justice lessons they are learning. And the conversation continues back on campus.

“Reflection is a big part of the trip, and we try to keep it going when we get back,” said Tomlinson. “And people just want to see each other again” to sustain the new friendships they build while working and learning together.