By Iris Mahan, University Relations Intern

Like other lucky spring breakers, Derrick McGhee, UTC senior accounting major and University Relations student worker, enjoyed a week of beach vacation in Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas. This trip, however, wasn’t all palm trees and sunshine; McGhee was there to work, joining other students for UTC’s International Spring Break Project in their mission of college advocacy and community works.

The International Alternative Spring Break is offered as a class for course credit with a core curriculum rooted in international relations and ideas of social justice. McGhee and his fellow students prepped for their trip months in advance, planning everything to the last detail. Allowed only one personal carry-on for seven days, the travelers loaded themselves up with UTC admissions packets and financial information, promotional t-shirts, water bottles, and other goodies to distribute to students at Government High School in Nassau.

The importance of college promotion is self-evident in the enrollment numbers of native residents.

“There aren’t many options for kids graduating high school in the Bahamas. Most enter the workforce because there are very few college opportunities locally,” McGhee explained.

McGhee said when the UTC group asked the Nassau students how many of them planned to attend college, only twelve of the forty students raised their hands. The majority of students that did intend to go only imagined going to Florida schools for either band or track.

“It was great to have the opportunity to open their eyes to the variety of options they have in furthering their educations,” said McGhee. After he and the others distributed UTC college information and logo-emblazoned swag, the students were asked again to raise their hands if they had college plans; this time, every hand went up.

The high school students demonstrated their appreciation for the visit by staging a mini-talent competition after the talk. For McGhee, the most entertaining moment came when a girl rapper took the stage. “She free-styled, even threw in a shout-out to UTC, which we all loved,” he recalled.

The UTC group’s good works didn’t stop there.  In between the fun stuff, like snorkeling, and a memorable afternoon when McGhee kissed a 27 year-old dolphin named Cheri, they stayed busy with beach clean-ups and visits to the Ranfurly Home for Children. McGee’s interaction with local students was a highlight of the trip.

“We went to a church service with some of the kids, and on the bus ride, they were really shy and quiet. After we got back to the home, I started a game of basketball with some of the boys. They really started to loosen up. This one kid, Antonio Allen, you could tell he was kind of the ringleader. Once he started opening up, the rest of the kids followed. Antonio was really mature for a 16 year-old. It was great to hear his perspective about life and other, simpler things,” McGhee said.

The International Spring Break Project provides UTC students with the opportunity to broaden the scope of their understanding as they enter the world outside of the university setting. For McGhee, it provided him not only with memorable new experiences, but also with a new and different way of viewing the whole college experience.

“I think that being able to encourage others to further their own education and goals has really reinforced the decisions I’ve made to further my own.”

UTC students’ good works were published by the Ministry of Tourism in Nassau.  Read more here:

Media Relations Contacts: Email Chuck Cantrell or call (423) 425-4363.
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