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Spring breakers fix homes.

The annual tradition for college students called spring break sends shudders down the spines of concerned parents as well as the beleaguered local residents of such beach side communities as Panama City, Florida, and Padre Island, Texas. However, if a new trend catches on, parents and many other folks may breathe a sigh of relief.

Inspired partially by the destruction wrought by hurricanes along the Gulf Coast last year, many spring breakers decided to volunteer their youthful energy to perform positive charitable work this spring.

In one article about this welcome turnabout, "New Orleans Working Vacations Catch On," in the Washington Post for March 15, the writer observed: "[Anita McClendon] and thousands of other volunteers are combining work and play to help rebuild this devastated city. This month, they are being joined by hundreds of college students spending spring break here and on Mississippi's Gulf Coast."

The article quoted Alexis Logan, 22, a senior political science major and one of several Howard University students who spent spring break working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans. Said Miss Logan: "Traditional spring breaks are when students go to tropical islands and do what college students do.... This may not be as fun, but it will be just as rewarding in the end."

Another article, in the Christian Science Monitor for March 17, told of a student group from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who also spent spring break living amidst rather primitive conditions (outdoor toilets and showers) while helping to rebuild New Orleans. Philip Jones, one of the students, said: "This is the weirdest but most rewarding trip I've ever taken. At first, I said there was no way I was going to give up my last spring break to come here. Now I'm not regretting it a bit."

The report estimated that 10,000 such students spent their spring break helping with the rebuilding effort. "Everybody talks about all these billions [of federal dollars] coming down, but on a one-to-one basis they're not seeing anything," New Orleans City Councilor Cynthia Morrell told the Monitor. "It's an opportunity to go into a depression, and all of a sudden here come these kids, and even adults that come to help, and it's almost as if someone's reaching out a hand and saying, 'It's OK, we'll help you get on your feet.'"

Not everyone who spent his spring break helping out was a college student, however. Duane Clayton had recently returned from a tour of duty with the Army in Iraq. He told the Monitor: "This [relief effort] is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they built the country on Christian principles."

The workers involved demonstrated strong integrity as well as a good work ethic. Nineteen-year-old Trista Wright, from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia, discovered some papers hidden in a wall vent. She told CNN: "I started raking it out of the air conditioner vent. I thought it was garbage and I was going to shovel it up, but I bent down to pick it up, and it was a stack of $100 bills, and then more and more kept coming."

A total of about $30,000 in cash was recovered. One of Miss Wright's fellow students, Haley Barton, who was helping clean up the house, told CNN: "I think that it's expected of us as young people, or people of any age this day, to go in and take it and not be faithful or trustworthy in turning it in, but that wasn't even an option for us."

The woman who owned the house suspected that her lather, the previous owner, had hidden the money. He had gone through the Depression and didn't trust banks.

The Rev. Warren Jones, Jr. of New Salem Baptist Church in the Ninth Ward, which served as a base for church missions, told reporters: "To see that woman's face when we told her about the money, that's the kind of positive story that makes all the hard work worthwhile. She said it was a miracle. And when you think about it, it was."

Two hundred students from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, also took part in spring-break service trips from March 6-10. An article about the dedicated students appeared in the National Catholic Register for March 26-April 1. The newspaper quoted Creighton senior Kelly Orbik, who participated in her fourth service trip this year, working at a food bank and shelter in Cleveland. Miss Orbik told the Register: "It is hard to know what to do sometimes. These communities all across the country want our students to come--to learn from them and with them, how to love the poor and marginalized in our society."

Miss Orbik and classmate Marie Young produced a recruiting video to enlist more students in such service work. The video concludes with an invitation: "Do you have the courage and compassion to hang out with a person who is homeless, to sit with a child learning to read or to gut a house ravaged by a hurricane?"

As all of the preceding stories reveal, many young people across America have both the courage and the compassion.
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Article Details
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Author:Mass, Warren
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:858
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