U of U students serve during spring break

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SALT LAKE CITY – Spring break is typically about sleeping in, but one group of University of Utah students spent their vacation doing community service.

More than 100 students signed up for Alternative Spring Break. It’s a program that dates back to the mid-90s at the U, and coordinators said interest has spiked.

“What better way than to spend spring break doing service,” U of U sophomore Alex Lake said.

She’s one of a dozen students who spent the week in Seattle, Washington learning about homelessness.

“A lot of the times we went to different shelters,” Lake said. “We would either be going to food banks and handing out food to other people, or we would be going to shelters with women and children, just talking to them.”

Students in the program were divided among nine different locations, where each group tackled different social issues. In Las Vegas the students looked at problems with child abuse and addiction. In Kanab students helped out with animal rescue. In Portland, Oregon students tackled environmental issues.

“I think there’s something mythical about road trips that people are like, ‘yeah, we’re going to go on this road trip,’” Program Coordinator Kris Fenn said. “But you’re working on an issue that you care about, or that you want to learn more about.”

Students said it’s something many of them went into blindly, but they said they came away with new insights.

“We visited a few organizations, both non-profit and regular businesses,” Portland participant Kolby Newton said. “We just learned from them about how they encompass the word “sustainability” into their business or organization.”

Newton is a biology major. He said the close-up look at sustainability was a way to take the classroom one step further and hopefully bring back some of those ideas to Salt Lake City.

“Portland does a really good job of not only recycling things, but having a dedicated compost system for the entire city," he said. "They come around and pick it up like trash or recycling."

Coordinators run alternative break programs in the spring and the fall. Due to growing interest, several more locations are planned for future breaks.

More information on the Alternative Spring Break program can be found on their website.