200 Days in the Life of the College

Monday, March 21

An alternative to catching some sunshine: Spreading some

By Lauren Howe ’13

It’s an annual pilgrimage. Thousands of U.S. college students head south for spring break. But some forgo the beach and instead participate in Alternative Spring Break, a student-run organization founded in 1993 that sends Hamilton students on service trips, primarily to the southern United States, to work in construction, environmental service or urban community outreach. This year, about 100 students are volunteering at 10 sites.

My ASB group of 11 women drives 16 hours south to Burgaw, N.C., to tutor students for a week. The first day, I enter a classroom to meet a crowd of energized second-graders scurrying about like busy bees, solving math problems and reading aloud. The teacher introduces me as “Miss Lauren, the college student from New York.” Lacking a southern accent and sporting a bright green visitor’s pass, I immediately garner attention. Trinity, a tall girl with bouncy braids, eagerly asks, “What’s it like to go to college?” I respond, “It’s a lot of work, but really fun!”

I tutor students struggling with two-digit subtraction and enjoy helping them with science experiments and art projects. I memorize the names of some 20 students — like Anthony, who struggles to concentrate but wants to go to college, Ezekiel, who likes to eat pieces of my clementine at lunch, and Janesha, whose preferred recess activity is going down the slide on my lap.

After the school day ends, I shift gears to tutor urban high school students and help with child care for teen moms taking parenting classes. Using crayons, I scribble slope-intercept math equations on a napkin to help Raymond prepare for his algebra midterm.

While the elementary classroom setting proves challenging and our days exhausting, my ASB group forms meaningful relationships with our kids and one another. I feel invested in the second-graders, despite having been with them for only a week; I want to watch them grow up and succeed. It is sad to say goodbye, but I return to campus with a plethora of memories and new friends. I cannot imagine a more rewarding way to have spent spring break.