Alternative Spring Break!
For all you future Illini out there who love to volunteer, Alternative Spring Break (more commonly known as ASB) is just the thing for you! ASB is one of the best ways to take on a leadership role as soon as you set foot on campus. Volunteering was how I defined myself in high school, and I wanted to continue my service efforts in college. Within my first few weeks on campus, I applied and interviewed to be a site facilitator for an ASB trip on HIV and AIDS issues at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center in New York City and landed a spot (It’s me in these pics!).
My responsibilities included collaborating with the volunteer coordinators at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center to develop service activities for the week. While at the center, we helped present career and health workshops for clients, prepared informational mailings for AIDS Walk New York, and assisted the kitchen staff in cooking, serving lunch, and cleaning up. While this might seem like a lot of responsibility, ASB is also great for people with a lot of time to commit to service or those who want to just give it their all for a week.
I used to work in the Office of Volunteer Programs, where I would help students find a volunteer agency in the Champaign-Urbana community that would match their interests and their schedule. Understandably, the agencies usually would prefer volunteers that would be able to donate a couple hours a week to so that they could build a successful and helpful relationship with their volunteers. As an incoming freshman, this might seem a little overwhelming to add to your schedule considering the stress from adjusting to a new academic and social environment. ASB is perfect if you don’t want to take on too much in your schedule your first semester or two. ASB allows to you completely focus on volunteering during your break while still making a big difference!
Another plus about ASB is that, no matter what trip you decide to go on across the country, you will definitely have time to do some sight seeing! While on our ASB trip in New York, every night we did something different. We saw a comedy show one night, went to Times Square another, and tried every different type of ethnic food we could! My sister is currently on an ASB trip now — she is volunteering on a Native American reservation in South Dakota. On the way there, her group stopped to see Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone — definitely different than my experience in Times Square, but still awesome.
Another plus is that ASB is sponsored by the University. In total, including food, lodging, and site seeing costs, I only paid $300 for my whole week in NYC! We are lucky that Illinois supports student activities that they think will contribute to your education. Pretty sweet deal!
Lastly, the S in “ASB” is a little misleading. ASB offers trips for all seasons. At Illinois, we get one week off around Thanksgiving, a week for spring break, of course three months for summer break, and a whole month for winter break. Four weeks off makes me a little stir crazy, so I would definitely recommend this one.
Definitely check out ASB if you love to volunteer. I learned a ton from my experience. It actually changed my career choice, and I came out of it with plenty of ideas on how to be an even better leader and advocate for causes I care about.