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Students Give Others a Break this Spring

UCR Students Give Others a Break this Spring

One student’s inspiration draws others to opt out of March vacation for community service.

(February 12, 2008)

Students from around the country participated in an alternative spring break in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2006.

Students from around the country participated in an alternative spring break in Biloxi, Mississippi in 2006.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Spring break is historically a time for students to gather at some beachside resort for a week of fun and merriment. Ten UC Riverside students will be near the beach on break — the beach at Biloxi, Mississippi. It’s called alternative spring break, and they will be volunteering to work on hurricane relief.

In 2006, UCR student George Luna visited the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, and he vowed to go back.

“I fell in love with the community and with the people I worked with,” Luna said. “There is still much work to be done there. I was going to go back by myself and thought why not bring nine others.”

Luna sought guidance from Susan Allen Ortega, UCR’s Assistant Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students. Her office helped him send out a request for volunteers, and 30 students applied to fill 10 slots.

In addition to Luna, UCR students choosing an alternative spring break in Biloxi are Danielle Wickman, Phillip Okhovat, Adriana Diaz-Ordaz, Rochelle Faugier, Carolyn Meeker, Vanessa Melendez, Saori Ida, Adam Robarge and Joseph Spellman.

Luna was able to determine that a non-profit organization called Hands On Network would actually supply room and board for the volunteers for only $10 a day, which leaves airfare as the largest cash outlay for the students. Luna is busy writing proposals in hopes of getting funds raised for transportation, too.

During their stay from March 24 through March 30, UCR students will be working on framing houses, removing mold from structures, tutoring children, serving in the soup kitchen or helping out at the animal shelter.

“We should have a full day everyday,” Luna said. “It’s going to be tough, but we do have Sunday off.”

Sponsored by the UCR Community Service program, part of the AVC/Dean of Students office and Residential Life, the alternative spring break will bring UCR students together with other college students there at the same time.

“The 10 students have done their paperwork and they are all signed up and excited for the trip. For many, this is their first time leaving the state of California,” said Jennifer Miller, UCR Student Development Educator in the office of the Assistant Vice Chancellor/Dean of Students.

Miller added that Luna has laid all the ground work for future alternative spring break projects.

“One of my goals is to get this going each year,” Luna said.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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