Alternative Spring Break Rouses Thankfulness, Community

By Purnell T. Cropper | April 3, 2014


A day care, a children’s camp, and three homes in Leesburg and Fruitland Park, Fla., were given a new look by 41 Arcadia University students, alumni, and staff members over spring break as part of Arcadia’s 10th annual Alternative Spring Break trip. This was the second consecutive year the program worked through the National Relief Network (NRN), a nonprofit coalition that organizes volunteers and places them in areas around the country that are in decline or need of disaster aid.

The renovation project occurred over six days; one of the highlights was a mural produced by the students for the Carver Learning Center, which moved Gwen Kelly, the day care’s director, to tears.

“Miss Gwen was crying when she thanked us,” said Adam Stefanik ’14, student coordinator for the trip. “They [the day care] have a small budget but made lunch for us with tuna sandwiches and even had a local guy come in and put on a true Southern barbecue—best chicken I’ve ever had.”

Biology major Taylor Drake ’16 and psychology major Ashley Walters ’16 sketched several options for the mural, all of which Kelly enjoyed. The fact that she loved all the proposals resulted in a mural that moves from an under-the-sea scene to pastoral farmland, creating landscape perspective.

“There was no expectation to finish a mural of this quality in the three days we were able to work on it,” said Cindy Rubino, coordinator of the Office of Community Service. Rubino also noted that the mural left an impression on Scott Harding, founder and CEO of NRN, who accompanied the group.

In past years, the Arcadia Alternative Spring Break program worked in disaster relief, allowing the entire group to work in one location together to, for instance, construct a house. While students this year split up to complete multiple projects, they returned to Arcadia feeling more connected than ever.

“As I approach graduation, there is nothing else I would have wanted to take with me,” said education major Samantha Davis ’14, who also worked on the mural. “The friends that I made and the memories that I now hold will last a lifetime for me, and I am forever grateful for that.”

Rubino attributed this effect to the efforts of Stefanik and David Klein ’15, another student coordinator, who incorporated exercises and activities into the trip to foster camaraderie. Rubino noted how the experience brought “a transformation not just for the buildings and the communities but for the students who participated as well.”

“The trips always take on a life of their own,” said Stefanik, who has been on three Alternative Spring Breaks with Arcadia. “It really becomes a special experience, and this time we did come back feeling like a family. When you’ve spent almost six straight days without sleeping, you get to know each other!”