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Alternative Spring Breakers Make a Difference In Chicago

alternative spring break students

Howard Pride student Markeem Lateef had been looking for opportunities to volunteer since he enrolled at Howard Community College (HCC) last fall, but his place on the college’s men’s basketball team left him little time to commit.

Through Geoffrey Colbert, assistant director of Howard Pride, Markeem learned of HCC’s Center for Service Learning’s organized Alternative Spring Break, a college tradition since 2004. The timing was great, and the mission of the trip was exactly what he wanted to be part of.

Markeem was one of 10 students who traveled to Chicago, Illinois last month to volunteer with various non-profits working to empower and engage youth and their families in the city. Geoffrey Colbert and Cindy Nicodemus joined the students as co-advisors.

The group began their week engaging with the Lakeview Food Pantry, which works not only to meet the immediate hunger needs of the community, but also to educate the people they serve. Additionally, they were able to serve meals at the Cornerstone Community Center, which serves the community as a resource and gathering point for families.

Volunteering at Cornerstone was a highlight for Naomi Narat, a Schoenbrodt Scholar.

“I was a greeter so I got to talk to a lot of people,” she said. “I would sit with them and talk. It was very humbling and eye opening hearing about their lives. It encouraged us all to want to come home and start volunteering here.”

The group also spent a significant amount of time volunteering with the Chicago Youth Programs, which support early childhood programs during the day and after-school programming for high school students.

For Markeem, Connecting with the Chicago Youth Programs was the best part of the trip.

“Specifically because we were dealing with young teens about to go to high school,” he said. “They’re dealing with stuff at home. I personally come from a single-family home (in New Jersey). I was not financially stable growing up.

“I was able to connect on a personal level and tell them to stay on the right path, keep pushing, and they’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Another part of the trip was a visit with Gardeneers, a community organization striving to make sure every young person in the Chicago area has access to green space. Finally, the group enjoyed a meal with Inspiration Kitchen, a non-profit job training program that seeks to support those in the community who are transitioning from homelessness to stability, and in some cases, as they are coming out of the judicial system.

Both Markeem and Naomi made new friends during the weeklong trip, and many are now in touch to try to find opportunities to volunteer at home.

“We all got really close after those first couple of days,” Markeem said. “I feel like the reason that happened is because we all came with a goal in mind that we wanted to help and we really ended up enjoying it.”

To view photographs from the Alternative Spring Break Trip, visit the Center for Service Learning Flickr album

To inquire about upcoming trips or learn more go to the Center for Service Learning page.

Topics: Campus Life
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