Spring break for college students is a time to relax after the stress of midterms and college life overall. So what do college students choose to do over break? Many return home to see family and friends. Some choose to save up and go on a well deserved tropical vacation. Both are equally great and productive. However, some college students feel neither choices fully satisfy them. And that’s where Alternative Spring Break comes in. Most colleges through their community service department offer Alternative Spring Break trips for students to travel to multiple places for community service work. Through Suffolk University, I was lucky enough to travel to Denver, Colorado to work with Habitat for Humanity. I knew for my third spring break in college, I did not want to sit around at home, nor did I have the money to spend on a spontaneous vacation. For my friends who had done it in the past, ASB had been an amazing opportunity for them to grow and experience new things so I wanted to give it a shot.
Throwing it back to last semester, after I had applied for ASB and being accepted for the Denver trip, I attended weekly meetings with my group leaders and peers. Each week we learned about topics around community service and social justice to apply to our trip. During that time, I also got to know my peers (who they are and why they wanted to come on this trip). Week after week, we got closer and soon enough, spring break was here.
Our trip started at Logan airport on Sunday evening. We boarded our plane around 6:30 and we were off. The plane ride was quick, and the views of the fields of lights below were an added perk. We landed in Denver around 11PM. We were luckily housed by Green Mountain Church, an organization who generously take in college students who volunteer their time for community service.
Monday was our free day, so we got up early and took advantage of our day. We first started grocery shopping for the week. After that was done, we traveled out to the Red Rocks Amphitheater; an outside concert venue acoustically sound for artists to perform. When artists are not performing, the venue is open to the public for a variety of activities, including exercise fanatics who we watched run up and down the stairs as we stopped multiple times to catch our
breaths. We then ventured out further to hike around the Red Rocks to find the most beautiful views. After a long day of exploring, we ended up back at the church, preparing for our first day of service work.
Tuesday morning brought us to the Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver office. We met the supervisors of the Denver non-profit who shared the story of Habitat. Created by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976, Habitat aimed to help those in poverty with “partnership housing.” Their concept was to provide those in need with housing, working side-by-side with volunteers to build average houses. Metro Denver was created in 1979 and has become the largest affiliates in the U.S. Along with building houses, Metro has also created restores which resells furniture donated by the community. All their profits go towards supplies for the creation of houses. The Habitat office first sent us there. My peers and I spent the day moving furniture, helping customers, and organizing donations. I met workers of the restore as well as many appreciative customers. It was amazing to see the process and workings of this store. It’s a big and stressful project, however, the employees make it seem like a piece of cake. They were grateful for volunteers, because most recently there hasn’t been a lot of them. We joked about the Patriots and Broncos, learned about the sites of Denver, and watched customers leave happy.
Wednesday through Friday from 8:30AM to 4:30PM, we then were introduced to the real work of Habitat for Humanity. We drove to Sheridan, Colorado, the location of a plot where 61 homes are being built. We once again greeted by the supervisors of Habitat. Habitat also works with the AmeriCorps, a non-profit volunteer program most college students join after they graduate. The supervisors wasted no time. They taught us about the safety of building, gave us our hard hats and tools, and split us up into different activities. My first day included working on drywall clips. It was a long process of using drills, hammers, and nails, but we made the most of it. Thursday and Friday, I was up on the roof of the houses; nailing wooden beams into the side of the house, as well as leaning up trusses for the start of the framework of the roof. It became stressful work after a couple of hours in the sun, but luckily we were working with people who made it fun.
The best part about working on the housing site was meeting all the volunteers. There were 4 AmeriCorps members who had just started their program or almost finishing. They told us about where the graduated, what they plan to do with their future, and how grateful they were to have us on site. They asked us multiple questions about Boston, especially wanting to know about the nightlife, in which they had never experienced.
Along with the great volunteers, we were lucky enough to meet two families who worked on their houses with us. We learned about their families, as well as their hopes and dreams for the future of their houses; one mother detailing her wish for her kids to place handprints inside the drywall before the house is finished. That conversation left me in great spirits, knowing that the hard work I was doing was well worth it.
Friday night left my peers and I with a sad reflection. We wished badly that spring break could be even longer so we could go back to the site. That night we traveled to a special spot in Colorado --- Lookout Mountain. The citizens of Colorado come here regularly to watch the sunset, and we did just that.
While looking at Colorado paired with the pink colored sunset and sitting on the rocks above, I reflected back on my week with Habitat for Humanity. I fully believe it is important for our generation during this time to volunteer. We’ve been deemed as the “lazy millennials” who only focus on themselves. There is no wrong in going home or taking a vacation for spring break. However, if you feel the need to volunteer, you won’t regret service trips. There were 7 trips occurring all over the U.S on Suffolk’s spring break; all “lazy millennials” who worked to make a difference. We documented our fun on social media, but also took the time to put down our phones and take in the moments. This trip we got to build a home for family; a home they will make memory after memory in. And to me, that is the best feeling ever.
I’m still reminiscing over my time on spring break. Coming back to Suffolk with tons of homework isn’t fun, however, I come back having more appreciation for life. Cheers to volunteering!