Trading tequila for a tool belt

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First Posted: 3/16/2015

You can’t hate on somebody for wanting to live and let loose on Spring Break — but binge-drinking and hangovers aren’t for everybody.

Get ready to feel badly about yourself.

Some undergrads throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania, including some from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre and Misericordia University in Dallas, opt to participate in alternative break programs by volunteering their time to improve communities around the nation every spring.

Goodbye, tequila; hello, tool belt.

For select students at King’s College, an alternative spring break is aimed to do more than just help; they aim to S.E.R.V.E. The Students Engaged in Reflective Volunteer Experience program recently included a total of 30 students and staff participating in three different alternative breaks: St. Joseph Housing Repair Program in Clintwood, Virginia; My Brother’s Keeper furniture and food delivery program in Easton, Massachusetts; and the Change A Heart ministry for those experiencing poverty and homelessness in Pittsburgh.

According to William Bolan, director of the Shoval Center for Community Engagement and Learning at King’s College, the service trips are also meant to be learning experiences.

“Our S.E.R.V.E. trips allow students and staff the chance to learn more about social problems and injustice in our communities, to assist organizations in need and to realize that we can be part of the solution. It is only a week, and we realize we are not going to transform the world in that time, but we see how to take part in communal efforts that cause real change over time,” Bolan said.

Giuliana Lapiana is a senior at King’s College who chose to spend her last Spring Break (February 28 – March 7) serving others in Easton, Massachusetts.

“This trip, I learned about the different pockets of poverty. It helped me to realize I should judge less and love more,” Lapiana said. She has chosen an alternative Spring Break over a traditional experience since she was a freshman.

Lapiana admitted that she used to judge people before her alternative Spring Break trips, crediting the program for exposing her to different walks of life.

“I love spending my time understanding people and what they’re going through. I think we all have that misjudgment of poor people, the homeless and people in general. I think society pushes that on us,” said Lapiana, who credits S.E.R.V.E. for broadening her views.

This year, Brittany Czerniakowski, a junior at King’s, spent her Spring Break helping the Change A Heart ministry in Pittsburgh— and she brought home an invaluable lesson.

“One of the biggest things I got out of this service trip was a better understanding of how poverty affects people and how to take it home and apply that knowledge in my own community. I got to know these people. I got to understand who they are. I learned how to look at them as people,” Czerniakowski said.

Amanda Tretiak is a speech-language pathology major at Misericordia University, and earlier this month, she chose the alternative route by participating in her school’s Campus Ministry Spring Break Service Trip. Tretiak spent March 1 – March 5, in Dickinson, Texas, volunteering for Bay Area Habitat for Humanity, where she painted her tail off instead of partying.

“I have been going on service trips since my freshman year and I think they are a great experience. I still get a break from school while helping others and meeting new people.It just makes me really happy that I can help others and make others happy,” Tretiak said.

Even if volunteering your Spring Break away isn’t for you, there is still a lesson to be learned here: with every tradition, there’s always an alternative.

Don’t be afraid to be different.