The College renewed its commitment to its alternative spring break program this year, as various administrative and student groups allocated a total of $13,500 in funds to seven student-organized groups.
Students will spend their breaks in locales ranging from Springfield, Mass., to the Dominican Republic, participating in a variety of service roles including providing medical care and cleaning up storm-damaged areas.
The cost of these service trips, however, can be quite expensive, especially when expenses are associated with travel. For this reason, the College’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) offers financial assistance to service groups traveling during spring break. While students were busy organizing their trips in November and December, staff at the CCE were gathering funds from a variety of sources: the deans’ office, the Multicultural Center, the Gaudino Fund, Lehman Council and the CCE itself. College Council does not participate in this funding pool but instead makes its own decisions about trips separate from the CCE.
Rick Spalding, chaplain to the College and coordinator of community service, explained that this pool of funding “spares student organizers the trouble of applying to all those entities themselves [and] simplifies things for those offices by allowing them to take all the funding they have available for spring break service trips and put it into the pool, rather than making their own grants case-by-case.”
This year, the total funding allocation for service trips came to $13,500. Of that total, $11,000 came from the combined funds of the CCE and Lehman Council.
Once the funds are amassed, Lehman Council and the CCE sort the applications, which are due at the beginning of the spring semester. Applicants are required to list information such as the anticipated modes of transportation and the number of students that may be involved. Eight groups applied this year and seven were granted funding.
Reviewers determined that the proposal from the lone group that was denied funding was more consistent with that of a research venture rather than a service-oriented trip. For the rest of the applications, the committee, which consists of Lehman Council members and CCE staff, awarded funding on a per-student basis.
Spalding explained that the committee took into account “the cost of each trip and the availability of other funding to some groups, as well as the probable impact of the projects. Grants [given to students] ranged from $85 to $300 per student.”
The funding that the CCE provides, however, never covers the full cost of the trip. “We simply don’t have that much money,” Spalding said. “We also feel that it’s important that every student make at least some financial contribution to the trip in which he or she participates.” For this reason, the application for financial subsidies also asks organizers how they plan to fundraise for their trip.
For example, 12 students planning to travel to the Navajo Nation Reserve in Arizona recently held a raffle of gift cards and other prizes donated by local businesses donated and also organized a coffee house and benefit concert in Dodd living room on Thursday.
Spalding explained that even estimating conservatively, this spring break will see “nearly 3000 hours of energy, labor, imagination, commitment and relationship given by students who could be relaxing somewhere instead. And of course, there’s no way to quantify the value of learning that the student participants will do – about justice, about solidarity, about community [and] about partnership.”