URI offers second annual non-traditional spring break

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Students to build home in Louisiana

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 8, 2007 – The University of Rhode Island’s Academic Alternative Spring Break is partnering with Habitat for Humanity for the second year to offer students an opportunity to volunteer over spring break.

This year, 21 students and two faculty members – program coordinator Gail Faris and Dean of Pharmacy Donald Letendre – will travel to Slidell, La., to help rebuild a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The group will also be joined by two community members.

Last year, the build was held in Albany, Ga., and was a tremendous success. The university decided to run the program again this semester as part of the service-learning course Community Service 302.

Gail Faris, the coordinator of the program who teaches the course, said that the program was valuable to the students.

“Alternative spring breaks are more than just a new buzz on campus,” Faris, a South Kingstown native, said. “Coupling the build as a hands-on component with an academic portion further solidifies the volunteer service learning we are trying to provide students.”

Sulina Mohanty, a senior from East Greenwich is currently taking the course and looking forward to the upcoming trip. “I was especially attracted to this program, rather than other alternative spring breaks, because of the academic aspect of it,” Mohanty said. “While I have not yet gone on the trip, the issues that we have learned about and discussed in class will make the experience much more meaningful.”

Students from last year’s course submitted a portfolio reflecting on their experiences and according to Faris, students found it to be a great experience.

“They described it as a stepping stone to their future service involvement,” Faris explained. “The students recognized that service learning and volunteerism would be a good part of any adult’s life, regardless of their community. In the future, they can work in many ways to make their community better, their school better, their policies better.

“It is also a wonderful way for friendships to build and develop,” Faris said.

Students from last year are able to participate in the ’07 build without taking the course again. The course also helps students to raise funds needed for the trip. Thus far, the program has received $3,000 from University sources. Students will be traveling separately by plane, and some will be driving to Louisiana.

For more information about the program, contact Gail Faris at gailfaris@uri.edu or 401-874-5464.

Pictured are students from last year’s URI Academic Alternative Spring Break. Students helped build a home in Albany, Ga. Photo courtesy of Gail Faris.