Students Volunteer through Alternative Spring Break Program


Photo Courtesy of University Outreach

UM-Flint students volunteer at a local elementary school.

Gracie Warda, Writer

While many students will be on vacation for their spring break, others will be enjoying themselves in Flint through the Alternative Spring Break program, through which they will volunteer for a day. 

“Alternative Spring Break is an opportunity for students to volunteer in the local community, here in Flint,” said Gary Ashley, who is the program manager. “A lot of campuses send students away for spring break, but since 2008 we’ve made a commitment to serving the city of Flint.” 

Ashley works with Alternative Break Executive Board members, Sarah Ellsworth and Morgan McFarlin, to plan the event. The Office of University Outreach, which focuses on collaboration between students and the community, sponsors it.

The volunteer days, known as “Impact Days,” offer students a flexible schedule and take place March 2-5. It costs $20 to participate, covering food and a t-shirt. More information can be found at the Alternative Breaks web page. 

“It’s great if students aren’t going anywhere for spring break … if they don’t have a ton of work to do. They can get involved in their community with the week off,” said Ashley.

Ellsworth and McFarlin are responsible for partnering with local organizations, one of which volunteers will choose to work with. These organizations focus on a variety of local issues, such as restoration, homelessness and hunger. Ellsworth recalls installing smoke detectors for free and cleaning up neighborhoods with “blight,” or deteriorating architecture. 

She also mentions that, when boarding abandoned houses, the crew “painted [the boards] to look like windows, so that they still looked pretty.” 

At the end of each Impact Day, participants will have a reflection session with one another in which they discuss their mission, purpose and overall takeaway. 

The Office of University Outreach also offers Alternative Summer Breaks, Service Saturdays and MiBreaks, all of which allow students to volunteer across the country at varying costs. 

“No matter what you’re doing, there’s someone in the community that will see it, and you can tell that it just makes their day. This was a really great extracurricular because it helped me figure out what I wanted my college experience to be about.” said Ellsworth.