by Gabriela Slomicz, Alternative Spring Break site director
After my first day preparing for the 2016 Alternative Spring Break (ASB) here in the Baltimore Metro area – including unloading 120 cots and knowing 40 days of ASB were still ahead of me – I was exhausted. So I asked myself, “Gabby, why are you doing this?”
The answer was clear: I believe in the Alternative Spring Break experience. I love the people I work with, the participants who give up their spring break to volunteer and make a difference, and the many wonderful organizations we are able to support.
I first signed up for ASB through Rutgers University four years ago. Since then, I’ve led two more ASBs in college. Then I joined AmeriCorps, run by United Way of Monmouth County, and served as an ASB Team Leader for three weeks. I met students from all over the country and loved every second of college hostel style living, eating PB&J for lunch, rebuilding houses destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, and sharing stories with participants and those we were helping.
ASB changes everyone involved. Those we helped were so thankful; the organizations we partnered with welcomed us with open arms; and the ASB participants learned so much. At the end of my first ASB, one participant thanked me for helping him make an impact during his spring break. It only took two minutes, but what he said is still with me four years later, and the learnings last a lifetime.
And that is why I do it.
To see students learn and grow through experiences and interactions with people they would never have met otherwise.
Now, I’m an official ASB site director and get to pay it forward. It means getting up early and going to bed late. Being flexible and comfortable with discomfort. Learning how important it is to be civically-minded, help people and fight for social justice. Now I work behind the scenes with
United Way of Central Maryland and their partners — like the Franciscan Center, St. Vincent de Paul of Baltimore, Civic Works and Moveable Feast — so ASB volunteers can have an incredible experience this month.