SUNY New Paltz students enjoy an alternative spring break in their own backyard
NEW PALTZ – Fourteen SUNY New Paltz* students chose to spend their spring break in their community making a difference. The college hosted its second annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program for a week in March with students participating in leadership opportunities and volunteering at five different local nonprofit organizations.
Students are selected through a competitive application process that includes submitting essay questions, resume, transcripts and an interview. There is no cost to participants either. All costs are covered by a Campus Auxiliary Services block grant through Student Affairs. Students work seven days during the week and this year logged 700 service hours in the Ulster County community. Organizations are selected based on their needs, ability to accommodate volunteers and the daily schedules.
Those activities included a donation drive at Shoprite of New Paltz to collect donations for the Queen’s Galley Soup Kitchen in Kingston and Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption in Accord. In four hours, the students collected 443 items (a 24% increase over last year’s donations) and $164.04 in cash donations. In addition to these collections, the group also volunteered at the soup kitchen, Mohonk Preserve, SUNY New Paltz Children’s Center and the animal shelter.
“Alternative Spring Break New Paltz is an opportunity for a group of students from all class years and majors to work as a team and make a difference in their community through volunteerism, said Erica Wagner, New Paltz’ service learning coordinator. “Our participants take away leadership skills, a new group of friends, and a deeper understanding and appreciation of the New Paltz community.”
The experience can be a “life-changer” for many of the students. “I learned that one hand can make a difference, but many hands can make a huge difference," said Jin Ru Zhang (’13), an accounting major. Arengail Samarita (’14), who is majoring in marketing and finance, said "I am grateful for the ASB 2012 experience because in such a short amount of time, I was able to develop my leadership skills, learn more about the social issues around the mid-Hudson Valley and make new friends who share the same passion for volunteering as I do. The ASB program was great because we all worked so hard to reach out to the community and had tons of fun along the way! I am truly glad that I was a part of it," she added.
Wagner said the ASB program also provides students with a “full circle” experience. For example, the group collected food at Shoprite, transported it to Queen’s Galley, weighed and stored it, then prepared a meal and served it and cleaned up afterwards. She also said the program discusses issues facing each organization. The students became aware of how the downturn in the economy affected the animal shelter with many people surrendering their pets because they could no longer afford to care for them.
Wagner said there continues to be an increasing amount of volunteer activities available at the end of the academic year and is looking to expand those opportunities for students throughout the entire school year. She has established an email listing of volunteer opportunities, NP Volunteers, which matches volunteers with appropriate opportunities. Since its launch in January of this year, Wagner has already recruited 300 volunteers.
For more information about the ASB program or NP Volunteers, contact the New Paltz Career Resource Center at (845) 257-3265 or email: email@example.com.
Located in the heart of a dynamic college town, 90 minutes from metropolitan New York City, the State University of New York at New Paltz is a highly selective college of about 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
One of the most well-regarded public colleges in the nation, New Paltz delivers an extraordinary number of majors in Business, Liberal Arts, Sciences, Engineering, Fine and Performing Arts and Education.
New Paltz embraces its culture as a community where talented and independent minded people from around the world create close personal links with real scholars and artists who love to teach.