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More than 80 MIT students spent their spring break volunteering their services instead of sunbathing on the beach of a tropical island.
They were participants in Alternative Spring Break, a student-managed program that sends volunteers out to teach, build homes, assist at children's camps and work in AIDS hospices.
MIT's Alternative Spring Break (ASB) was started in 1996 by Anthony Ives (SB 1997, MCP) who arranged for a few students to teach in the inner-city schools of Washington, DC. The ASB is now run by five student officers who have expanded the program to serve eight communities in the United States and Puerto Rico.
The current officers (all juniors) are co-presidents Shuley Nakamura (electrical engineering and computer science) and Chuang-Yien Johnny Lee (biology), treasurer Jessica Wang (biology), secretary Lavi Nissim (biology), and publicity chair Cherry Liu (urban studies and planning).
The AIDS Awareness Trip to New Orleans placed volunteers in Project Lazarus, an AIDS hospice, where they helped "people there live their daily lives," said Ms. Liu. Other volunteers were placed at Belle Reve, where they provided services like painting and cleaning.
Students at Camp Speers, a YMCA Environmental Education camp for children in Dingmans Ferry, PA, taught ropes courses, team work, survival, ecology, cross-country skiing, rock climbing, hiking, ice fishing, archery, arts and crafts and ice skating.
The three Habitat for Humanity teams in Philadelphia, Richmond, VA and Washington, DC pounded nails, painted, framed, dry-walled, roofed, applied siding and took on other construction work to help build houses.
Two teams traveled to Washington, DC, and Baltimore in partnership with Teach for America, a program that gives recent college graduates the opportunity to teach in inner-city or rural schools. ASB members worked with Teach for America teachers on lesson plan and curriculum design.
Ten students taught in the inner-city schools of San Juan, PR, and in the rural areas of Culebra near San Juan. The ASB participants used Spanish in the classroom.
A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 24).