By Iris Mahan, University Relations Intern
By the time spring break rolls around midway through the semester, most students can’t wait to take off for destinations unknown for a week away from the pressures of exams and research papers. Manual labor doesn’t often sound like a very appealing way to whittle away the hours, but that’s exactly what UTC students contributed to the second annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Project, a community outreach program enlisting students to give their time in service to local organizations in need of help.
A few years ago, Dr. John Delaney, Vice Chancellor of Student Development, began the conversation about giving back as way to keep students engaged in the community. Inspired by his experience with other ASB programs at other university campuses, Delaney asked Carol Oglesby, Coordinator of Student Civic Engagement, to encourage students to participate in UTC’s own Alternative Spring Break.
With the success of the ASB’s inaugural debut last spring, Oglesby began receiving emails and calls in December from various local organizations interested in being a part of the project. Oglesby responded to a message from Jay Parks, Director of Youth Services for the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, Inc. He advocated for a residential home for youths removed from troubled homes and placed in the custody of the state.
“Jack talked about the home with such emotion and concern,” she said, “that we couldn’t pass up the chance to provide some services and improvements to the living conditions of these boys and the great staff caring for them.”
Oglesby stressed the importance of volunteer work and student involvement in the project: “UTC is an institution dedicated to fostering an environment of community engagement. It is part of our responsibility to serve, support, and nurture, not just our campus community, but the community that constantly supports us as their Chattanooga University. “
Encouraged to “dress to get dirty,” participants turned out with paint rollers, rakes, and pruning shears to freshen up the Gardner Boys’ home from the inside out. They also collected donations for new bedding, towels, and other household items.
Jaimie Davis, ASB volunteer and University Relations photographer, joined students and UTC affiliates in painting bathrooms and bedrooms and extensive yard work. “Everyone that was there was really committed to getting a good deal of work done,” she said.
She was most impressed by the four boys in residence at the home, and their willingness and enthusiasm to work alongside the volunteers in making the home improvements.
“They were happy to participate and were really appreciative of the work we were doing. It was eye-opening getting to see first-hand the importance of taking the time to give back. You get almost instant gratification knowing how much a simple kindness really means to someone.”
Although National Volunteer Month doesn’t begin until April, UTC will utilize all it can of March to demonstrate the importance of outreach. Students and members of the community who missed the chance to participate in this year’s ASB will have more opportunities to give back later this month when UTC’s mobile blood drive, Bloodanooga, partners with the “Get in the Game, Save a Life” initiative, a drive hosted March 27th and 28th by the UTC Football Mocs to add the stem cell donors to the Be a Match Registry.
For more volunteer opportunities and information about traveling internationally with the Alternative Spring Break Project for course credit, call the offices of the Division of Student Development at 425-4534.