Athens, Ga. – A group of 360 University of Georgia students will forego typical spring break trips like the beach and amusement parks to spend the week of March 9 participating in nearly 14,000 hours of community service work at 19 sites across the U.S.
The students have signed on for IMPACT, a program that offers substance-free, experiential service-learning projects and encourages an understanding of pressing societal issues. Students perform short-term projects for community agencies and learn about social justice issues, including homelessness and poverty, children’s wellbeing, affordable housing and construction, human rights, environmental topics, animal advocacy, Native American culture, disability awareness and HIV/AIDS awareness.
Alyson Farzad, a senior public relations and journalism major, is one of the student site leaders for a trip to Foley, Alabama focusing on immigration issues.
“I think IMPACT has the ability to ignite people-to give them that little spark that inspires life-long service. And that life lesson is invaluable,” she said.
The program evolves each year, adding trips based on student interest. New initiatives this year include activities focusing on LGBTQ concerns and the challenge of human trafficking.
Thomas Stukes, a third-year international affairs major who serves as IMPACT’s outreach coordinator, says students benefit from the experience because they gain an awareness of social justice issues that they can put to use in their own communities.
“When students engage in service projects in other communities, they are there for the betterment of others and they become aware of the real injustices that exist in our own country,” he said.
UGA’s IMPACT program is one of hundreds that take place across the nation in colleges and high schools. The program is run almost entirely by student volunteers with guidance from one professional staff member and one doctoral intern.
UGA’s trips this spring break trips, their focus and what students will be doing, are:
• Jackson, Miss., disability awareness, serving as counselors and therapists for children and adults with disabilities;
• Philadelphia, disability awareness, working with The Arc, an organization that advocates for people with disabilities;
• Americus, affordable housing, building a Habitat for Humanity home from the ground up in the organization’s birthplace;
• Asheboro, N.C., affordable housing, constructing a Habitat for Humanity house;
• Knoxville, Tenn., affordable housing, constructing a Habitat for Humanity house;
• Bluefield, W.Va., ageism, providing activities and advocacy for both the very young and for senior citizens;
• Charleston, S.C., animal advocacy, working in shelters and with animal advocates;
• Clinton, S.C., children’s advocacy, engaging with children who are experiencing difficult family circumstances;
• Orlando, Fla., children’s advocacy, working with children with life-threatening illnesses at Give Kids the World and working with abused children at new Hope for Kids;
• Tuscaloosa, Ala., disaster relief, participating in the ongoing recovery from 2011 tornados;
• South Florida, environmental awareness, working in national parks maintaining trails and cleaning up beaches;
• St. Louis, HIV/AIDS awareness, interacting with people living with HIV/AIDS through outdoor and recreational activities;
• Charlotte, N.C., homelessness and poverty, working in a food bank and at the largest boys and girls club in the Southeast;
• Chicago, homelessness and poverty, working with multiple agencies for a hands-on approach to addressing homelessness;
• Atlanta, human trafficking, addressing the growing issue of children being sold into sex trafficking;
• Foley, Ala., immigration, assisting with refugee relocation and asylum, cultural integration, teaching English and as a second language and after-school programs for children;
• New Orleans, LGBTQ awareness, addressing the needs and challenges of the LGBTQ community through service agencies;
• Pembroke, N.C., Native American awareness, working with and learning from the Lumbee Tribe; and
• Indianapolis, public health, working with multiple public health agencies to educate youth about public health issues.
IMPACT is a program of the Center for Leadership and Service within UGA’s Division of Student Affairs.
For more information, call 706/583-0830 or see http://cls.uga.edu.