Spring break is a time for relaxing, catching up on sleep and taking a break from studies, but for some Hamilton College students it also means serving others.  Ten groups equaling 100 students are spending a week of their break volunteering at one of 10 nonprofit organizations through Alternative Spring Break (ASB), March 15-28.

This year marks Hamilton’s 22nd ASB, an annual volunteer venture that consists of 10 different community service trips over two weeks. Nine groups are heading south for week-long Habitat for Humanity construction projects, direct service work with children, environmental work or community outreach. Another group of 10 students will travel to New Jersey to help clean up in the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

A new ASB destination this year is Philadelphia, where Hamilton students will volunteer with the Urban Tree Connection, helping to develop community-driven greening and gardening projects on vacant land, and with the Nationalities Service Center, where they’ll work with an English as a Second Language (ESL) class.

Another group will visit the Highland Park, N.J., area to help with Hurricane Sandy relief work during the first week of break, March 15-21. Hamilton students will work with Classis New Brunswick Community Development Corp. on various projects.

Hamilton ASB groups will work with five Habitat for Humanity programs in four states. Two groups are going to Virginia - one is volunteering at Eastern Shore of Virginia Habitat for Humanity and the other is going to Mechanicsville. Ten students are travelling to Madison & Clark, Ky., to work on a house there; another group is returning to Habitat for Humanity in Marion County, S.C., and the other will head to Pittsboro, N.C.  

Ten Hamilton students will return to work at Burgaw Elementary School near Wilmington, N.C. Through this annual outreach program, they’ll help students with homework and participate in after-school activities.

For the second year, Hamilton students will volunteer with Friends of the Lower Greenbrier River (FOLGR) in West Virginia.  FOLGR strives for secure drinking water quality and recreational values of the watershed. It is involved in many projects that help conserve and protect the water resources of the Greenbrier River watershed, such as water monitoring, invasive species clean-up and educational programs. This year the students will be doing river clean-ups and help teach elementary school children about the water system.

Hamilton’s ASB program was initially sponsored by the Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach and Charity (HAVOC), a student-run organization that provides community service in Oneida County. The Alternative Spring Break program was started in 1993 when 20 students traveled to Miami to work on Hurricane Andrew relief with Habitat for Humanity. In subsequent years, the number of participants has steadily increased.

ASB has now evolved into its own student organization with an executive board that runs the program with Hamilton’s COOP. The students are housed in churches, camps and refugee centers.

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