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Students forgo beach for ‘Alternative Spring Break’

While other Ole Miss students were relaxing on the beach and hitting the slopes during spring break, freshman interest group (FIG) and living-learning community (LLC) students traveled to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to serve the local communities and, of course, have a little fun.

On March 11, Ole Miss students, along with students from University of Southern Mississippi and members of the local community, aided in the cleanup of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, which was ravaged by a recent tornado, in downtown Hattiesburg.

“We inventoried supplies, cleaned up debris, moved furniture and cooked lunch for all of the volunteers and church staff,” said Kurt Lee, area coordinator, who, along with Ridge North resident manager Ryan Burnette, coordinated and supervised the trip.

On March 12, the students traveled to Ocean Springs and assisted at Sue’s Home, which offers transitional housing to women and children, by performing standard home maintenance tasks. During the afternoon, they spent time reading and playing games with Boys & Girls Club members. Students also assisted at Gulf Coast Community Ministries, a local food pantry.

“It was a humbling experience and a chance to think about myself and how privileged I am,” said Courtney Jackson, Minor Hall resident assistant. “When I saw people who were so excited just to get a meal, it was much easier to live without the conveniences of life, like my phone, during the trip.”

Students spent their time on March 13, cleaning up debris and clearing brush on the walking trails at Shepard State Park in Gautier.

“It was very rewarding for me to see our students serve selflessly and give so much to those they do not know,” Lee said.

After all their hard work, students were rewarded with a day of fun on March 14, before returning to campus the following day. They shopped at an outlet mall, got friendly with some alligators at Gulf Coast Gator Ranch and ended the day with an exhilarating game of laser tag.

“While on the trip, I got to know other FIG and LLC members and create stronger bonds with people I already knew,” Jackson said. “My new friends and I have even met for lunch since the trip.”

Sponsored by the Department of Student Housing, the trip was free for students. Because of the success of this year’s Alternative Spring Break, plans are already being made for next year’s trip.

“Students began discussing their desire to do this again next year because of their eye-opening experiences this year. We are thrilled with their response and hope to involve even more of our students in the future,” Lee said.

View our Alternative Spring Break photo album.

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