Spring Break Tails
The 2015 edition of Howard Community College’s (HCC) Alternative Spring Break brought students back to the program's beginning: Nashville, Tennessee. Born out of Vanderbilt University over 20 years ago, the alternative break movement was created to provide students the opportunity to travel to different communities and engage in direct service to benefit their host community. The trips strive to promote a lifelong service ethic by encouraging students to examine their roles in community.
During this year's spring break, eight students and two staff members traveled to the country music capital of the world to partner with the Nashville Humane Association (NHA) on the issue of animal welfare. During their visit, HCC’s volunteers helped with a variety of programs including pet adoptions, humane education, lost and found, community outreach, spay/neuter outreach and cleaning and animal care duties.
Brittany Budden, director of service learning at HCC and a Vanderbilt University alum, was particularly excited to return to Nashville. “I could not wait to expose our students to the culture of service that is embedded in the Nashville community,” she said. “This trip is an homage to the movement itself.”
In a moment befitting Nashville’s musical roots, the group bumped into Aerosmith frontman and former American Idol judge Steven Tyler while shopping at the local Whole Foods Market. While the students were excited to pose for a photo with Tyler, this star-studded encounter was hardly the highlight of their trip. For students like Briana Pervaiz, “seeing the animals’ progress and their improvement day-to-day” was the real reward of their hard work.
One example was a group of dogs that had been rescued from an unstable environment the day before the students arrived at NHA. Terrified, the dogs initially hid in the corners of their kennels, too afraid to interact with humans. Taking baby steps, the students were able to enter the kennels, acclimate themselves to the dogs and eventually walk them on leashes. “The first time I took one of the rescues, Mikki, out of her kennel she just sat in the grass and looked around,” said Briana. “The second time she walked around, jumped on me, barked and began to have fun. It was almost like she had made a complete transformation in a matter of hours!”
During the trip, the group bonded as they worked to provide love and care for the animals. “Although we hadn’t known each other long, we came together as a team and worked really well together,” said Briana. Student Brent Cook returned home with a new appreciation for the vital work of nonprofit organizations like NHA. "They pick up the slack" he said, praising the organization's work to provide education and assistance through initiatives like their mobile spay and neutor unit. "By providing direct support to the community, they're making life easier on current pet owners and increasing the potential for future pet owners."