March 21, 2003
While many college students enjoy spring break as a time to relax and travel, about 30 SFSU students spent their weeklong vacation volunteering in the community.
Students in a class dubbed "Care Break" offered in SFSU's Recreation and Leisure Studies Department, along with additional student volunteers, have participated in a different community service project each day this week.
They donated toys to terminally ill children Monday. They cleaned Justin Herman Plaza, located in downtown San Francisco, on Tuesday. They led trust and leadership-building games with students from San Francisco's Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School on Wednesday. They led social activities with residents at Hampton Court, an assisted living center for senior citizens in Daly City, on Thursday. They wrapped up their week today by performing a variety of activities at Sunnyside Elementary School in San Francisco.
The toy drive netted more than 500 items donated to terminally ill children staying at San Francisco General Hospital.
"We want to make these kids feel that they're no different than anybody else. They deserve the same kind of attention that other kids get," 23-year-old senior Mark Santana said.
The Burton students learned a great deal about leadership, teamwork, trust and communication through a day full of games on the SFSU campus. For example, a game called the "Trust Fall" involved one person standing surrounded by others in a circle. The person in the middle closed his eyes and fell backward, trusting the others to catch him.
Tiffani Tamaru, a 16-year-old Burton sophomore, said she learned lessons that wouldn't have been as fun or valuable taught inside a classroom.
"You got to be involved," she said. "I liked falling backward. The 'eye-contact' game taught me a lot abut how you shouldn't make assumptions about others."
The SFSU and Burton students also displayed teamwork after one of them lost an earring in the grass. They all got down on their hands and knees and dug through the thick, wet grass until the earring was found.
The Care Break class aims to introduce students to volunteerism, civic engagement, community leadership and advocacy through community service learning experiences. Each student is required to volunteer 40 hours during spring break.
"We're trying to bridge the gap between academics and the real world," said Erik Rosegard, Care Break instructor and assistant professor of recreation and leisure studies. "Students are building a strong sense of community and learning firsthand the concepts we discuss in class."
It is the second year that SFSU offered Care Break, joining a growing number of colleges and universities nationwide that provide opportunities for community service work during spring break as an alternative to partying. "A Matter of Degree," a program administered by the American Medical Association, began last year to encourage colleges and universities to curb binge drinking and offer drug- and alcohol-free activities for students during spring break and throughout the year.
The SFSU students participating in Care Break didn't mind missing the spring break parties that take place each year in hot spots like Arizona, Mexico and Florida.
"I don't think there's any point (to vacationing during spring break)," said Steven Mur, a 19-year-old freshman. "I want to spend my time in the community. We all live in the community. We all share the same area, and we should clean up and improve the area."
"I want to give my time to somebody else, somebody who needs the use of my time more than I do," said Erika Leon-Guerrero, a 19-year-old freshman. "All that partying is really overrated."
For more on alternative spring break activities at colleges and universities throughout the Bay Area, see the San Francisco Chronicle story.
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