March 29, 2002

Students Use Spring Break to Volunteer Instead of Vacation

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While some Cornell students spent their spring breaks in the tropics, others devoted their vacations to community service and education. Habitat for Humanity, Cornell’s Alternative Breaks program, and the language house were three organizations to host programs Cornellians participated in.

Habitat for Humanity gave students the opportunity to spend their spring breaks giving back to communities across the country.

Natalie Casemyr ’04 and Joanna Mecca ’04 planned the organization’s five trips this year. According to Casemyr, planning began in October with exploration of possible destinations. Students interested in going on the trips signed up in February to work at locations in North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, or Louisiana.


During the trip, students spent the week of March 16th working at the sites.

“The work varied between the different destinations, but included things such as framing, putting up interior and exterior walls, putting up vinyl siding, roofing, landscaping/land clearing, painting, carpeting, hanging doors, etc,” Casemyr said.

There are many rewarding aspects of Habitat for Humanity, according to Casemyr.

“Cornell’s Habitat for Humanity is somewhat unique in that it opens up the trips to the entire Cornell community,” she said.

Mecca, who led the trip to Covington, Louisiana, said that the most rewarding part of the trip for her involved meeting the residents her group helped.

“We had a dinner with the families whose houses we had worked on,” she said. “It showed that what we did was actually making a difference.”

Another Cornell organization, Alternative Breaks, planned spring break trips where volunteers were able to go out into communities and work with different agencies. This year, students went on trips to sites in New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

According to Sharon Baskind ’02, president of Alternative Breaks, a member board researches which sites and agencies groups will be working with. Many of the trips have visited locations more than once, “so we can maintain a relationship,” she said.

Hedy Lee ’03, participated in the Alternative Breaks trip to the Bowery Mission in New York City. Lee and her group worked at the mission serving food to residents and homeless people in the community.

“Everyone should have an experience like this. I’ve learned that homelessness can happen to anybody. I think the schools should give students lessons, tours, field trips, even overnight or week stays in a homeless shelter just so everybody in the world will realize what homelessness is like,” Lee said.

Another group from Alternative Breaks worked at Mountain Lake Children’s residence in Lake Placid, New York. Carol Provost, director of Mountain Lake, said that the Alternative Break trip was extremely beneficial to both residents of the school and Cornell students.

“It was a fantastic experience,” she said.

According to Provost, the 32 boys who live at Mountain Lake have been placed there by family court and are considered “at risk” for problems such as dropping out of school or getting in trouble with the law.

Provost said that students from Cornell worked daily at tasks including tutoring students, landscaping, and helping students present a talent show.

“They [Cornell students] mostly provided companionship and friendship,” Provost said.

One of the main benefits of having the group of students visit and work is that, “it is great role modeling for the boys in our program to see students who have successfully made it through their teen years,” Provost said.

Another group of Cornellians that participated in an educational spring break opportunity included members of the Spanish section of the Language House at Cornell. Ana Patricia Cajina-L