Spring Break programs offer students an alternative experience

Penn State Altoona students were able to take part in a variety of alternative trips over spring break this year, in the United States and abroad.

One such trip was to Disney World in Orlando, sponsored by the Office of Student Life and the Campus Activities Board. The trip was created to give students an affordable spring break option that included leadership development and community service in addition to positive social experiences with their peers. Forty-eight students were able to attend.

While there, the students participated in the Disney Leadership Strategies College Edition. During this program, they uncovered useful tools and strategies that promote effective problem solving, decision making, and managerial skills as practiced by the team at Walt Disney World Resort. They also spent one day of community service at Mustard Seed Furniture and Clothing Bank of Central Florida.

Says Kim Sterner, a sophomore from Harrisburg, Pa., “Since Disney always makes everything so magical, I was curious to see how they would go about the leadership program. It was definitely a great program, and we took away a lot of great material. And giving back to others is something I enjoy as well so I knew community service would be another rewarding experience.”

Freshman Zachary Yukas agrees. “Through the Leadership Strategies seminar, I learned a lot about the skills and qualities of a good leader. That, coupled with the community service component of the trip, helped me realized that I do want to be a better person, and I can be.”

Another group of students participated in the campus' service trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua. This eight-day program, started back in 2001, is a partnership with Outreach360, a volunteer program reaching into disadvantaged communities abroad. Eighteen students, one graduate student, two faculty, and two staff went on the trip. Some students taught English to elementary school children at the Learning Center in the city while others helped make improvements to the center’s sidewalks and retaining walls. Nursing and health and human development students spent their time teaching health care and first aid to the children.

“Students not only learn something about another culture different than their own, but by crossing borders to live and work with the people of another culture they learn they are not so different after all,” states Victoria Hesser, an administrative assistant at Penn State Altoona and one of the team leader’s. “Most importantly, students learn something about who and what they are. By this discovery, they realize how they can make a big difference in a very small period of time.”

Taylor Sutton, a senior, was especially touched by his work with the children. “I learned just as much from them as they did from me. I hope I get to go back some day.”

Last Updated March 27, 2013