Penn State Behrend heads alternative spring break initiative

March 06, 2009

New students, same pods. New approach, same mission. Students, faculty members and staff from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, will spend the week in Gulfport, Miss., as the college's alternative spring break (ASB) program once again leads the multi-campus initiative to help residents clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and the other natural disasters that have affected the area. Penn State Behrend's ASB 2009 is scheduled for March 8-13.

"During ASB 2009, Penn State students from across the Commonwealth will have the opportunity to work with each other side by side for one common goal -- to selflessly help those in need," said Cynara Stubbs, who is coordinator of the Center for Service at Penn State Behrend and responsible for organizing this annual multi-campus alternative spring break trip.

A total of 74 students, faculty and staff -- about one faculty or staff member for every four students -- from five Penn State campuses will attend the weeklong trip. Thirty-two students and eight faculty and staff members comprise the 40 slots reserved for Penn State Behrend, putting the college at capacity. In addition, Penn State DuBois, Penn State Harrisburg, Penn State Lehigh Valley and Penn State Shenango are also participating with, respectively, seven, 14, eight and five members of their campus communities attending.

ASB participants will again stay at the Orange Grove Volunteer Village, which is located in northwest Gulfport and run by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Each campus' Student Activity Fee subsidized the travel and lodging for its respective participants so that each student pays only $300 for the weeklong trip. Each campus' number of spots was determined by their respective budgets.

According to Stubbs, Penn State Behrend's alternative spring break program models "The Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break" as defined by Break Away: The Alternative Break Connection, Inc. These eight components include strong direct service, orientation, education, training, reflection, reorientation, diversity, and a commitment to being drug and alcohol free.

In accordance with these tenets, Penn State Behrend divided its 40 participants into smaller groups of five. These eight teams as well as the larger group met regularly in the months leading up to ASB 2009 in an effort to get to know one another. "It helps to create a sense of community," said Stubbs. "Students will know their immediate team members and adviser before arriving on site. This helps to make the transition into the week's events more seamless and subsequent interpersonal communication more effective."

Students also received some hands-on training for Gulfport during a local Habitat for Humanity build in February.

Finally, the college's ASB participants will have an opportunity to share their experiences with one another and the Penn State Behrend community at the ASB 2009 Reflection Ceremony, scheduled for Friday, March 27, at 4 p.m. in the Smith Chapel worship space. "During the ceremony, participants will be encouraged to translate their experiences with ASB 2009 into a lifelong commitment to service," Stubbs added.

Forty members of the Penn State Behrend community, including 32 students, are participating in the college's 2009 alternative spring break program. They are:

Sabina Abbasova, a sophomore studying biochemistry from Pittsburgh
Sally Balkovic, a freshman studying nursing from Erie
Julie Baltes, a sophomore studying business and accounting from Erie
Audrey Burdick, a junior studying education from Sharon, Pa.
Angelina Caputo, a sophomore studying psychology from Pittsburgh
Dana Cerminara, a sophomore studying biology from Cranberry Township, Pa.
Kaylynn Defusco, a sophomore studying nursing from Pittsburgh
Chelsea DeMay, a sophomore studying political science from Bethel Park, Pa.
Jennifer Ferguson, a senior studying accounting and finance from Allison Park, Pa.
Amethyst Hudson, a sophomore studying business from Erie
Torin Karsonovich, a freshman studying biochemistry from Clark, Pa.
Elizabeth Keller, a sophomore studying accounting and finance from Bradford, Pa.
Heather Lindstrom, a junior studying nursing from Corry, Pa.
Jessica Lynch, a senior studying biology from Erie
Elisha Mann, a freshman enrolled in the Division of Undergraduate Studies from Gibsonia, Pa.
Scott McDougall, a sophomore studying management information systems from Union City, Pa.
Tanya Mora, a freshman studying accounting from Pittsburgh
Kylie Peters, a sophomore who plans to study either psychology or biology from Corry, Pa.
Jake Randolph, a sophomore studying economics from Erie
Tom Reilly, a graduate student studying physics from Fairview, Pa.
Cory Reitmeyer, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering technology from Pittsburgh
Eliska Repkova, a junior studying international business and finance from Liberec, Czech Republic
Cameron Roberts, a sophomore studying finance from McMurray, Pa.
Connor Sattely, a sophomore studying journalism and international politics from Pittsburgh
Brianne Sawders, a sophomore studying chemistry from East McKeesport, Pa.
Mike Stevens, a freshman studying mechanical engineering from Cranberry Township, Pa.
Gary Taylor, a junior studying biology from Sharon, Pa.
Diana Tinlin, a junior studying mechanical engineering from Beaver Falls, Pa.
Yan Tong, a sophomore studying marketing from Hongkou District, Shanghai
Jewel Wright, a freshman studying psychology from Erie
Ehtsham “Shami” Yasin, a freshman studying engineering from Sayre, Pa.
Danielle Zarnick, a sophomore studying elementary education from Butler, Pa.

The eight staff members who volunteered to accompany the students include Craig Berger and Keith Cerroni, who are coordinators for residence life; Betty Hamilton, staff assistant in student affairs; Lisa Mangel, lecturer in biology; Kris Motta Torok, director of student activities; Ann Quinn, lecturer in biology; Rod Troester, associate professor of speech communication; and James Warren, associate professor of biology.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009