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Where Did WCU Students Spend Spring Break? Working, Learning, Volunteering

Alternative Spring Break 2015
Centre for Exceptional Learners in Governors Harbour, Eleuthera

Some West Chester University students chose to spend their spring break learning and serving through trips here and abroad led by faculty or fellow students.

"Educating Youth across Borders" is a first-time trip for 12 students from the College of Education who are performing a variety of service projects at three schools in Malpais, Costa Rica. Students are assisting in teacher training and supporting children in academic activities using "Caps Kits," homemade learning tools created from recycled bottle caps. The student leader is Alexandria Baldassarre, and the faculty leader is WCU education professor Donna Sanderson, creator of the Caps Kits. Read more about Cap Kits.

Students with different levels of Spanish-speaking skills are also "Building Partnerships through Service" at University Rafael Landivar of Guatemala. They are engaging in service projects such as educating children and youth, creating environmental sustainability, building affordable housing, and increasing public health and awareness. This trip is primarily grant funded and is led by WCU senior Devin Kirby.

Members of WCU's fraternity and sorority community are in Pittsburgh, Pa., this week "Serving the Community Impacted by HIV/AIDS" in a partnership with Pittsburgh AIDS Task. Student trip leaders are WCU juniors Nikki Cattan and Ryan Schaefer.

Helping people and the environment is the goal of the students participating in "Creating Sustainable Food Resources for Communities in Eastern Pennsylvania." Students are promoting civic empowerment for communities in regard to health, sustainability and social issues through education and community gardening. WCU senior Mauricio Martinez leads the trip.

"Raising the Roof" with Habitat for Humanity gives students the opportunity to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity's Collegiate Challenge. Students are building homes in urban areas in Buffalo, N.Y. The trip is led by WCU seniors Caitlin Silver and Patrick Kane.

Since 2010, professors Claire Verden and Corinne Murphy have mentored WCU students as they focus on "Special Education in The Bahamas." Students are working directly with special education students in several schools on the island of Eleuthera. Read more about this program.

Professor Mary Brewster and assistant professor Sami Abdel-Salam guided their 400-level class of 21 students in a study of "Criminal Justice in London." They are meeting with representatives from criminal justice-related programs such as a drug nonprofit program, law enforcement (some with homeland security), community corrections, and domestic violence service providers.

Ecology professor Jessica Schedlbauer and 11 students in her 400-level "Topics in Biology" class are in Puerto Rico conducting an intensive, field-based exploration of the island's ecosystems and learning about conservation efforts such as sustainable coffee production systems. They are meeting with faculty from the University of Puerto Rico-Utuado to learn about their research programs as well as a watershed conservation non-profit organization.

Nutrition professors Jeanie Subach and Christine Karpinski selected students in the nutrition major to visit Italy over spring break to study nutrition in another culture.

Student Affairs staff Charles Warner and Barrett McGee are guiding students through Greece to examine leadership issues in that country and explore its history and culture. Considering Greece's financial crisis, McGee said, "Tourism is a large industry in Greece that helps boost the economy. The country needs tourists like us now more than ever."

Mauricio Martinez, a past alternative break participant and the student leader of this year's project benefiting Eastern Pennsylvania communities, says the experience of working with his peers to gauge social needs and improve communities has enhanced his commitment to service. "The elevated awareness that I have gained … has allowed me to become a more productive and conscientious citizen. A commitment to service and doing the most good in my community has become a value that I will uphold and cherish far beyond my time at West Chester University."

Alternative Break programs are coordinated through WCU's Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs. Study Abroad programs are coordinated through the Center for International Programs.