Alternative Spring Break - A Spring Break You Can Write Home About

This spring 16 Pace University students traded their sunscreen and bathing suits for work boots and gloves to take part in Alternative Spring Break (ASB), a Pace tradition for over a decade. It’s not easy to imagine spring breakers choosing to spend their vacation hauling garbage, scrubbing mold, and serving meals at a soup kitchen in Staten Island rather than partying it up at the shore, but from March 25 – 28, they did just that. It’s even harder to believe months after Hurricane Sandy, Staten Island is still rebuilding and many residents have yet to return home.

There is a sad lack of support for Staten Island; a lack of support that has contributed to Staten Island being considered “The Invisible Borough.” No one should be forgotten or overlooked in this way. All I really can do is lend a hand where it is needed and be the change I am not seeing in Staten Island,” said Tameka Bazile (’15), ASB participant and criminal justice major.

Working in partnership with three local non-profit organizations, All Hands, Project Hospitality and the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, students performed a variety of tasks aimed at getting the people of Staten Island back on their feet. Some students removed sodden dry wall from homes, others stocked the shelves of a former Duane Reade store that now serves as a community resource center for food, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and other assorted, but needed, items.

“We want our students to think globally but act locally, so it’s important for them to understand the complex issues impacting our local communities,” said Heather Novak, Associate Director, Center for Community Action and Research (CCAR) at Dyson College. CCAR sponsors and organizes Pace’s Alternative Spring Break program as well as other programs that foster civic and social engagement.

In 2012, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, a team of Pace students spent the day working with Staten Island residents gutting homes and cleaning out basements. Sally Gruenberg was one of the homeowners. So appreciative of the help, she donated $300 to the Alternative Spring Break program. She agreed to meet with the alternative spring breakers, sharing with them her experiences during the storm. She also described the difficulties some of her neighbors have faced in trying to obtain financial help and counseling services needed to rebuild their lives in Staten Island. “The enthusiasm and dedication of the Pace students was awesome!” said Ms. Gruenberg, “I was very happy to meet and spend time with the students. They are a great group.”

Alternative Spring Break was an immersive experience that resonated well beyond the four days of community service.

“Students from the Pleasantville and New York City campuses worked as a team whether we were playing Apples to Apples until 1:30 in the morning, eating lunch in the vans, struggling to tear up layers of flooring, or balancing on joists as we scrubbed mold. We truly bonded,” said Catherine Mastricovo (’15), ASB participant and communications studies and disorders major. “It was refreshing to be surrounded by other students who wanted to make a difference and work selflessly to help those in need.”

To learn more, check out the Alternative Spring Break blog.