PEACE Expands Alternative Breaks Program

Published: Nov 13, 2008

Every spring break, a group of University of Tampa students takes part in a journey that has become a yearly tradition of building homes, assisting the needy, and cleaning up the environment.

With the annual Alternative Spring Break having become such a popular alternative to what its organizers dub the “traditional” spring break, UT’s student volunteer organization, PEACE (People Exploring Active Community Experiences), has decided to expand the program to six separate trips throughout the year.

“We had an overwhelming number of people who wanted to participate in the Alternative Spring Break that couldn’t because of the limited number of people that we could take on a trip,” said Katrina Vidal, PEACE’s head alternative breaks coordinator. “We also wanted to give people a variety of options about where they could go and try to hit on more than just one issue whether it’s an environmental cause or homelessness.”

The newly expanded program gives students the opportunity to participate in two separate alternative spring break trips as well as two weekend trips, a winter trip, and an international service trip during the summer. Weekend and winter trips take groups of 15 students to locations throughout Florida, while the spring break and international trips will venture to locations in the southeast and elsewhere. 

“We want to get students involved in something they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to get involved with,” said Vidal. “With more options they can hopefully find something that suits their passions and interests.”

PEACE began to roll out the new line of alternative breaks in spring 2007 with its first international alternative break to the Dominican Republic where students conducted an outreach program to a local orphanage in addition to helping teach English to children in the local schools. In 2008 the international service trip was held in Jamaica and students got the chance to working local schools, teaching children and building playgrounds.

The next planned international trip will take students to Puebla, Mexico from May 10-16. There, the group will work with the organization Community Links International on projects addressing sustainability and environmental conservation in the local community.

A recent weekend trip took a group of students to Kissimmee, FL, where the group volunteered with “Give Kids the World,” a nonprofit resort for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. A second weekend trip is scheduled for the spring semester. During the winter break trip in December, students will travel to the Immokalee Friendship House, a shelter near Naples, FL, that offers food, clothing and other support to the homeless.

For this year’s two planned spring break trips, groups will go to Mississippi and Tennessee, respectively. In Mississippi, students will assist Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, while in Tennessee they will work with a local Cherokee Native American community on environmental upkeep on the Appalachian Trail, in addition to playing games with senior citizens and facilitating arts and crafts activities with the local children.

Further details of current and future trips are available through the PEACE Volunteer Center or via e-mail at alternativebreaks@ut.edu. Volunteers are selected through an application process, Vidal said.

“It’s an opportunity to do something good with your time and give back to your community,” she said. “In the long-term, we hope for it to be a way to get students engaged in an issue and encourage people to get involved.”

For more information on PEACE’s Alternative Breaks program, e-mail alternativebreaks@ut.edu or call the PEACE Office at (813) 253-6263.