Students join forces to serve communities during spring break.

February 28, 2012

Spring Break students

DEARBORN / February 28, 2012 --- At UM-Dearborn, spring break is upon us, and for some students, that means road trips to exotic locales and a week without homework. But for about 40 students, spring break means community service.

This week, students will canvass the nation as part of Alternative Spring Break. Students plan to lead volunteer efforts in Detroit, Florida, Kentucky and Louisiana.

They also plan to blog about their volunteer experience here. We recently caught up with some of those students who are serving as site leaders to talk about their spring break plans:

Detroit, Mich.
Heather Ballard is well aware of the problems surrounding Detroit. Homelessness. Crime. Unemployment.

This week, the UM-Dearborn senior plans to give something back to her community. “I lived in Detroit over the summer and just seeing all the issues going on … there were so many problems,” Ballard said. “I think everyone has a skill they can perform to help out this city. Especially because it’s right in our own backyard.”

Ballard and six other UM-Dearborn students plan to volunteer with the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan and Motor City Blight Busters. Ballard isn’t exactly sure what her duties include, but she hopes to work on neighborhood cleanup efforts.

Everglades, Fla.
Phil Dean and snakes don’t get along very well.

But the UM-Dearborn senior will have to get over his distaste for slithery reptiles this week as he volunteers in an area known for its rich snake population – Everglades, Fla. “I’m kind of stepping outside of my comfort zone,” Dean said.

Dean and UM-Dearborn junior Ryinta Brown plan to volunteer at Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and Monkey Jungle, a protected habitat for endangered primates.

Brown wasn’t thrilled with the Everglades as a child, but her growing passion for environmental issues made Florida a perfect spot to volunteer.

“For me, I am a person who loves service,” she said. “I believe that in pursuit of giving, you receive back so much more.”

Dean agrees.
“I think it’s really important to give back, not just to our metro Detroit community, but to other communities across the globe,” he said. “Just to see what sort of impact you’ve made … it’s great.”

Harlan, Ky.
Keep the hustle and bustle of city life. Branden Nathan will gladly take the countryside any day. Nathan’s appreciation for rural environments should help him this week, as he ventures to southeast Kentucky to volunteer.

“I actually like the countryside more than the city,” Nathan said.

The UM-Dearborn sophomore has visited larger cities in Kentucky, like Lexington, but he’s never traversed through Harlan. Needless to say, he’s excited to get his hands dirty.

There, Nathan plans to weatherize homes and plant trees, as part of a communitywide beautification project.

New Orleans, La.
Aayat Ali closely followed the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. Like Ali, audiences throughout the world watched as TV news crews displayed footage of the natural disaster’s devastating impact on New Orleans.

News coverage about Hurricane Katrina has died down in recent years, but the UM-Dearborn sophomore understands the rebuilding process is far from over.

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” she said.

Ali and other UM-Dearborn students, including sophomore Aaron Sarver, plan to work on rebuilding efforts in the Lower Ninth Ward, a community devastated during Hurricane Katrina.

“The ultimate purpose of Alternative Spring Break is to take whatever you learn and bring it back to the city of Detroit to help improve your community,” she said.

Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, University of Michigan-Dearborn is a metropolitan university serving southeastern Michigan, committed to excellence rooted in strong academics, innovative research and programming and civic engagement. The University has nearly 8,900 students pursuing more than 90 bachelor's, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business and education. A top-ranked university with a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of partnering with local leaders and communities, and is committed to finding solutions for the challenges that face the region.

#### Contact: Beth Marmarelli 313-593-5542 / bethmar@umd.umich.edu