Alternative Spring Break Program to volunteer in Alamosa

March 9, 2015

Natalie Bluhm
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Spring break can be spent soaking up sun by the crystal blue waters of a beach or partying all night until you can’t remember anything the next day. But for some students it is time to give back to the community.

The Alternative Spring Break Program is a club that uses this week off of school as an opportunity to volunteer around the state. From March 22-27 they will be in Alamosa volunteering with La Puente, a non-profit organization that aims to help the San Luis Valley community.

The cost is $35 and includes food, lodging and volunteer fees. Volunteers usually stay in a local church. There are only 12 spots and the deadline is March 10.

Caitlin Dougan, sophomore chemistry major and leader of the program, said that this is a trip they chose to take instead of going to Florida or Mexico.

“It’s a fun thing to do without spending a huge amount of money and its nice because they don’t have to deal with the planning and they just come along and then pack up and leave.”

Shawn Partin, junior computer science major, has been going on these trips for the past three years.

“I’d rather have a spring break that I would want to remember forever rather than trying to forget it or wish I had done something else.” he said.

The low cost is also an incentive for Partin.

Dougan mentioned that some of the programs that La Puente has include a homeless shelter, several food banks throughout the San Luis Valley, thrift shops, an alternative housing program, a kids program and a community garden.

“We rotate between all of the programs depending on what they need that year,” said Dougan. “Most of the time we work with the kids program.”

The kids program, Positive Activities Lead to Success, takes place after school and in the summer.

When school is not in session, PALS plans an array of activities from painting to taking the kids on field trips around the valley and state.

Partin and Dougan enjoyed last year’s trip.

“We got to run around Bishop’s Castle with them, which was sort of scary with little kids, but was so much fun,” Dougan said.

“It’s an interesting place as long as you’re not trying to watch a whole bunch of children. It’s definitely hand built and dangerous with lots and lots of balconies,” Partin said.

Dougan mentioned that they visited a potato seed farm, a ranch and had a park ranger from the Sand Dunes come with a salamander for the kids to pet.

Besides being a productive way to spend spring break, Partin mentioned other reasons why students, particularly freshmen, should go on this trip.

“It is a good way to make new friends. It’s a good way to branch out and see what the rest of the world is like instead of what just college life is like. You get a nice step into what the real world is like.”

Partin said that being a part of this trip has helped him figure out what he wants to do in life and provided some perspective. Dougan goes this route because she enjoys volunteering and it was also a great way to make new connections.

“Usually we really have a lot of fun and most of the people love the volunteering we do … La Puente does a great job of hosting us and making it really fun,” Dougan said