March 11, 2015
Finally! The sun is shining, the birds are singing and it’s almost 60 degrees warmer than the subzero temperatures from last week. We might have finally kicked old man winter back where he belongs. Which is a good thing since it’s officially spring break here on campus. I mean, how can you have spring break if it doesn’t feel at least a little like spring?
When I was a kid, spring break meant family road trips to Disney World or Washington, D.C. or just hanging out with friends at home. When I was a senior in high school, seven friends and I went to Daytona Beach (I’m still not sure why our parents ever consented, but I know my dad reads these so I’ll just leave it at that).
When I was in college, because I was working full time, spring break mainly just meant a little extra time to finish assignments from school and work. When I became a parent, spring break again meant road trips to Disney World, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. Now, since I work on campus, spring break means empty sidewalks, shorter lines and the ability to park on the second floor of the parking ramp.
When most people think of spring break I’m guessing they imagine sunny locales, relaxation and a lot of fun. But not every college student heads to the beaches of Florida or Mexico.
Every year more than 200 MSU students forgo the suntanning and beach parties to do something else and make a difference in communities. Undergraduates, graduate students and faculty head out across the United States as part of MSU’s student-run service organization Alternative Spartan Breaks.
This week, they’re spread out across the country in 18 locations partnering with local organizations doing community service work. Young Spartans are pitching in everywhere — at an animal sanctuary in Oregon, an AIDS project in Alabama, a children’s hospital in Tennessee, an urban farm in Missouri, a therapeutic riding center in Pennslyvania and more.
This year, we decided to follow along with them. My awesome collegue, Jen, and one of our terrific interns, Christine (who is working on community development in Virginia), came up with a great idea to collaborate on a project that allows readers to see in real time what students are doing. We had no real idea if it would work the way we planned, but it’s been such a fun project. Every morning Jen sifts through the content the students have sent from their locations and every day I’m amazed. It’s so dang easy to be proud of being a Spartan with students like these.
Please take some time and check out the MSUToday feature, Spring Break for Change, to follow along, check out some photos and videos and feel your Spartan heart swell with pride.
Carly Belsito is another Spartan who took a different route this break. She’s a junior journalism student and part of a really cool group, the College of Communications Arts and Sciences’ Media Sandbox Street Team. This break the group is working with The Disabled Traveler, a Michigan-based nonprofit that serves as a resource for travelers with physical or age-related difficulties.
As part of the project, she and the team are traveling to Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks in Utah to document these two parks and their accessibility features. The Street Team is part of a larger project, Out of the Box, created by 10 students from MSU studying journalism, advertising, design and video production. Check out the STUDENT VIEW: Out of the Box, to read Carly’s blog about the first days of the trip.
It’s not just students who are choosing to do interesting and important things during their break from classes. Joanne Gerstner, sports journalist in residence in the School of Journalism, decided to use her time off to address a serious issue in sports – concussions. She will be part of a panel at the popular South by Southwest conference this week. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Tackling Concussion Debate, to learn more about her work.
Another group of MSU students will also be at SXSW. They’re one of 8 colleges competing to be the top student startup company in the country. Follow along with live updates from Austin by checking out their Twitter feed.
I read all of these inspiring stories about students and faculty going beyond and digging in and giving of themselves to make someone else’s day better and I feel a little guilty. You might be reading this and feeling the same.
However even if you’re no longer a student or you’re not a faculty member, you can still band together with other Spartans around the world and make a difference. The MSU Alumni Association is again organizing Spartans Will. Power — A Global Day of Service that will be held on April 18. No matter your skills or strength, the collective power of Spartans can have a huge impact. Check out the project site to volunteer or even to register a project. It’s a great way to give back and have a lot of fun with other Spartans while doing it.
If you can’t participate that day, find some other way to give back. Take inspiration from the ASB and Street Team students. Follow the lead of other alumni. Find a way to create change for good. When the call for “Who will?” comes, be ready to step up and say, “I Will.”
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz