Students Work on Trails, Not Tans, This Spring Break

Senior Sarah Michelson

The week that students have off between terms at Drexel is coveted and well earned after 10-plus weeks of academic rigor. It’s no surprise that many students take spring break to fly down south and work on their tans.

But that’s not the scenario for all students.

Some are engaging in an alternative to the stereotypical spring break—working with underprivileged or underdeveloped communities through a variety of civic engagement initiatives.

The Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program is a weeklong community-based service project that provides opportunities for student engagement in activities that benefit the environment, the community and those in need. In 2012, there will be seven Drexel ASB trips in six different states around the country.

Sarah Michelson, a senior biology major, is not only participating in her third ASB program this year, but she is also leading a trip affiliated with the Florida Trail Association in St. Marks, Fla.

The Florida Trail Association is a nonprofit volunteer organization that builds, maintains, protects and promotes the 1,400-mile Florida Trail— one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States. Michelson and her team will work to rebuild parts of the trail.

“We’re privileged living in a nice area of Philadelphia. I wanted to stay in the U.S. and help out a community in need,” says Michelson. “Working with the Florida Trail Association, we’ll be making the trails safe for hikers.”

Logistically, Michelson teams up with Ed Kovacs, director of Campus Activities, on the planning process. Kovacs assisted her in selecting 10 additional students to join the team from a pool of over 60 applicants.

Michelson’s previous experiences on ASB trips included adventures that had her hiking in the wilderness, rebuilding bridges, clearing species from swamps and cleaning out public parks.

“The best part is that you get to know people who are passionate about the same things you are,” says Michelson. “There’s no internet or television—just you, the group and the environment.”

Other ASB trips include the Jewish Funds for Justice in Los Angeles, California; Environmental & Community Relief Projects in Southeast Florida; Habitat for Humanity Flint River in Albany, Georgia; St. Patricks’ Catholic Church Appalachian Region in Cumberland, Maryland; Rebuilding Together Philadelphia in Philadelphia; Philadelphia Volunteer Project in Philadelphia; and Community Engagement Focused on Urban Poverty in Chicago, Illinois.

Click here to learn more about the ASB program.

--Stephanie Takach