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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

18 ODU Students Participating in Alternative Spring Break Program

By Frances Calderon

With no classes next week, Old Dominion University students will scatter from campus. Some will go home to visit families, others might head to traditional spring break destinations.

And some will take advantage of ODU's Alternative Spring Break program.

This year, 18 students will travel to two locations - 11 to Camp Summit in Paradise, Texas, where they will work with students who have disabilities, and seven to Wilmington, N.C., to work on relief efforts related to September's Hurricane Florence.

The program, which is run out of the Office of Leadership & Student Involvement, has been in existence for more than 10 years, said advisor Amy-Leah S. Joaquim.

She explained that site selection is done over the summer and into the fall semester, with sites typically finalized by September. Recruitment for team leaders begins in late summer and early fall, then moves to site participant recruitment. Students apply through MonarchLink, and the aim is for teams to be finalized by the end of fall semester. There is a participation fee for students.

"But the trips are subsidized as well," Joaquim said, "and we work to keep them as affordable as possible."

Sites are selected based on social issue, student interest, cost and community partnerships.

"Finding the right organization to partner with is important," Joaquim said, "and we put time and effort into communicating with organizations to identify sites that can potentially be a multi-year partnership. Camp Summit is a great example of that."

This marks the third year ODU students will go to Camp Summit. "And each year we have had students who go back independently and join their summer staff," Joaquim said.

That was case for graduate student Ashtyn Jeter. She went on the first trip to Camp Summit has been going back ever since. Next week she will serve as ODU's faculty/staff advisor in Texas.

"We're there to serve the campers and we're supposed to change the campers' lives, but that's not how it works," she said. "The campers changed our lives."

The speech pathology major recalled a nonverbal camper who was afraid to ride a horse after falling off. Jeter's ability to communicate emotionally helped him start riding again. Her passion for the camp contributed to her being awarded the Golden Oak, the camp's highest honor.

Lauren Broderick, who will be a team leader for the Texas trip, finds camp just as accepting of her as it is for its campers.

"I think it's great that they have this place where they feel welcome and they can just be themselves," Broderick said. "I just really feel like it helped me find a part of myself that I didn't know was there."

Broderick was a team member last spring and became a part of the camp's staff last summer. She has a shy personality, but her time at Camp Summit helped improve her confidence and compassion. When talking about camp, she describes it as a bubble of happiness and acceptance.

Nursing student Alexis Taylor will also be a team leader at Camp Summit. Her time at the camp put into perspective her passion for helping people. She believes in the equality of care and respect that everyone is entitled to receive, regardless of disability.

"The campers really appreciated our work," Taylor said, "and I grew so close to them and there was just nothing but love in that environment and it was incredibly motivating."

Joaquim emphasized the amount of learning and development that happens for students who participate in Alternative Spring Break.

"Students come back with a perspective on this new community," she said, "but also with a different understanding of their civic identity, and what kind of impact they're capable of making in their own communities, as well as the ones they travel to on these trips."


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