May 9, 2017 – During the week of Spring Break, the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) sponsored three Alternative Service Break (ASB) trips that engaged 50 University of Houston (UH) students in learning about social issues through community service. Participants traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to focus on disaster relief from the recent tornadoes and community development; Ardmore, Oklahoma to engage with projects around environmental sustainability at Lake Murray State Park; and Killeen, Texas to support a camp for youth with disabilities.
ASB trips are immersive service experiences designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn about a social issue, with the ultimate goal of making a change in their life to positively impact a social issue in their community. Prior to the trips departing, students participated in three pre-trip meetings where they learned about the ASB program, the nonprofit organizations with which they would be volunteering, and the social issues for their site. Upon their return, the three groups joined for a post-trip celebration where they were able to share what they learned and how they planned to apply their experience and new knowledge in the Houston community.
Melissa Yang, a sophomore Biomedical Science major who served as a Site Leader for the New Orleans ASB trip, shared how her ASB experience has led her to take action in Houston. “I was able to volunteer in an underserved community and reflect on the social issues in New Orleans. Coming back to Houston, I really wanted to apply what I learned. I have continued my volunteering efforts by becoming a volunteer at Generation One, an organization that works with youth in the Third Ward community.”
Over 250 institutions across the country offer ASB programs with around 20,000 students participating each year. UH students contributed to the national impact of ASB by dedicating over 1,500 volunteer hours to multiple communities in a single week. Katy Kaesebier, Associate Director for Leadership and Civic Engagement in CSI, stated, “When students leave the city limits, they are able to step away from their day-to-day responsibilities and engage with a social issue at a deeper level than they could if they stay here. The real change happens when they return home and can not only see the social issue they focused on during the trip in their own community in a new way, but they have the knowledge and skills to have a positive impact on that issue.”
About the Center for Student Involvement:
Under the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services the Center for Student Involvement provides involvement opportunities for students at the University of Houston main campus. The University of Houston’s diverse population ensures that there is a place for everyone, and The Center for Student Involvement helps each student find it. Over 500 student organizations are registered with Center for Student Involvement and it is the central location for leadership programs and civic engagement opportunities. Advising staff assist fee-funded groups with the event planning of campus events and traditions. The guidance and educational experiences offered by the department cultivates skills that will be useful for a lifetime.