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Sac State students can give back to the community during Alternative Break

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Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2011 12:00 am

Spring break is fast approaching and while some students are using the vacation for rest and relaxation, the Community Engagement Center at Sacramento State is offering a valuable alternative.

Alternative Break connects students to a short-term commitment to local causes and services that help the community. The activities take place over four to five days during one week in the spring and winter breaks. This program is a way for Sac State students to create a more competitive resume, hone leadership skills, create connections within their local community and establish lasting friendships.

Misty Garcia, Alternative Break coordinator, said the benefits of participating in Alternative Break go beyond simply building a resume.

"(Alternative Break) gives the opportunity to try new things &- maybe working with a population in Sacramento they've never worked with before and get to know new nonprofits...(There are so many non-profits) it is almost like going to a buffet where you can try out everything you like," Garcia said.

Garcia said Alternative Break was created by university Provost Joseph Sheley in 2007. It has always been a program just for Sac State students, so it helps participants build relationships with their peers and feel a sense of belonging to the community. Garcia said students who do not know anyone else from Sac State tend to come away with the experience feeling"Sac State cares about them and their development not just in classroom, but as a person."

This year, the program is partnering with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Sacramento Tree Foundation, Sacramento Zoo, Harvest Sacramento and new this year, Meals on Wheels.

"We try to have at least one new partnership each break. The (partnership) I am most looking forward to is Meals on Wheels because it is our new one and I like to see the experience the students can get," Garcia said.

Last year, Garcia said Alternative Break volunteers worked with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services to feed more than 400 families. With Harvest Sacramento last year, 15 volunteers collected 1,500 pounds of fresh fruit from participating homeowners with fruit trees and donated the fruit to the food bank. Garcia is hoping to gain more volunteers this year to break that record. The Sacramento Tree Foundation partnership has volunteers help plant trees, as well as conduct maintenance on existing trees.

"Alt break is a great fit for someone who's coming as a group or as an individual. Everyone is welcome, if you sign up for a day, you commit fully on that day," Garcia said.

Those who wish to participate must register online for the program, which runs March 21-25.

Kayla Oliverio can be reached at koliverio@statehornet.com

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