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ECU students, staff gear up for alternative spring break


ECU News Service

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Almost 100 students and staff from East Carolina University will spend spring break serving others in local communities, across five states and in Northern Ireland.

It’s the largest group of students to sign up for ECU’s Alternative Break Experience since the ECU Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement began offering it more than five years ago, said Nichelle Shuck, the center’s associate director for student leadership and educational programs.

ECU’s spring break begins this weekend. Classes will resume on March 12.

In Greenville, ECU students on “Staycation” will work Saturday through Wednesday with community partners focused on youth and nutrition. Students will stay at Peace Presbyterian Church while weeding and planting in area community gardens, as well as tutoring and mentoring youth in Greenville’s Police Athletic League, at South Greenville Elementary School and in the Ayden and Farmville units of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain.

Also, this is the eighth year that ECU students will travel to Carteret County and Atlantic Beach. From Sunday to Thursday, students will clean and paint cabins at Camp Albemarle, where they will bunk for the week. Students also will work with the N.C. Coastal Federation on oyster habitat restoration, constructing rain water gardens with a local elementary school and the area Boys & Girls Clubs, beach cleanup and project maintenance as needed.

New this year will be an ABE collaboration between ECU, Barton College and local nonprofit organizations that are hosting five AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers through the Healthy Futures initiative. Students will help out in underserved Wilson neighborhoods and communities from today to Thursday to address access to healthy foods and health care. Partner agencies include Barton College, the City of Wilson, Wilson County Health Department, Wilson Family YMCA and the United Way of Wilson County.

The first international service-learning program in Northern Ireland involves cross-campus partnerships between the Honors College, the School of Communication and the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. Along with Amizade, a nonprofit service-learning organization in Northern Ireland, ECU students will learn how cultures and past histories, including conflicts addressed by the Belfast (Peace) Agreement of 1998, still affect communication and daily life for residents. Students will learn to work collaboratively through hands-on service-learning experiences at youth clubs. They also will visit with officials who have experience in community-based learning, peace-building and peace-keeping efforts.

Other ECU students will travel to Baltimore, Md., to work on projects addressing poverty and homelessness; to Roanoke, Va., for community health-related service projects; to Columbia, S.C., to work with youth in the juvenile justice system; and to Atlanta, Ga., where students will work with the LGBT community and homeless youth. Also the ECU Honors College will be hosting its ABE in Flat Rock and Asheville. Students will learn about Appalachian culture, innovative storm water control, native plant identification and will conduct river cleanup and invasive plant removal in conjunction with RiverLink, a nonprofit environmental group.

Alternative break experiences are offered throughout the year to help students learn in diverse environments that address social, economic, political, environmental, spiritual and cultural issues. Students learn through the exchange of ideas, personal reflection, critical thinking and by applying academic concepts outside the classroom, Shuck said.