A break in classes does not mean a break from learning or service at the University of Georgia. Over spring break, March 11-15, 378 UGA students traveled to 22 cities across the country, where they volunteered with more than 50 community service organizations.
IMPACT Service Breaks, a program run by the Center for Leadership and Service, engages students in affordable and substance-free experiential service learning.
Amanda Torrence, senior coordinator for community engagement, said that it makes her heart full to see so many students from across campus and from various backgrounds come together to serve.
“But not just that,” Torrence said. “To learn – about themselves – about their community.”
Torrence said IMPACT is different from other service opportunities in that students visit the same communities year after year, building sustained relationships with the people there. For example, UGA students have been serving with Asheboro, North Carolina, for 20 consecutive years. She said that it is important to maintain positive and ongoing relationships with communities instead of just showing up.
Listen and learn
“It’s about working with these partners who know these communities far better than we ever could,” she said. “We listen and learn what they tell us their needs are instead of us deciding the need for them.”
Formerly known as Alternative Spring Break, IMPACT began at UGA in 1994 with a group of students interested in spending the week of spring break engaged in community service. Since the beginning of the program, more than 3,000 UGA students have participated. This year, through winter and spring trips, the students served a total of 15,120 hours, or 1.72 years, of service.
For Kamryn Lyle, a senior international affairs major from Marietta, experiential learning opportunities like her IMPACT trip to Birmingham add value to her education beyond simply preparing her for a job.
“It’s not just about my career path – it’s about learning to be an active citizen, right?” Lyle said.
Lyle said that service is a big part of the culture at UGA. She thinks that the university attracts students who are concerned and willing to learn about what’s going on in their communities.
“These are students who are willing to delve into everything,” she said. “[UGA] helps build this big community of relationships where you’re hyping each other up to do service and get involved. There are a lot of very good resources and a lot of very motivated students.”
See broader issues
Aly Shakoor, a sophomore economics major from Decatur spent his spring break serving with nonprofits dedicated to shelter and resource access in Charlotte, North Carolina. He said that service is a great way to see to see the broader social issues.
“People tend to stay in bubbles, unless they’re forced out of a bubble or step outside of the bubble,” he said. “You need to know how you fit into that larger community.”
For Delaney Burke, a freshman criminal justice and international affairs major from Alpharetta, learning to build community is perhaps the greatest lesson from her service experience. She now has a different perspective and is not as quick to make assumptions about people or communities.
“It’s cool to get past the surface level,” she said. “Doing service goes so much deeper from the start. Through respect and admiration – awareness – that’s how you make community.”
Students interested in learning more about IMPACT should attend the open house on Sept. 30. The next trips are scheduled for fall break, Nov. 1-3, in a new partnership between the Center for Leadership and Service and the Archway Partnership, a unit in Public Service and Outreach.