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Public Affairs

No break from caring for SFSU students

April 1, 2004

Photo of a Care Break student removing non-native ice plants near Lake MercedLounging on a sunny beach, partying, or just catching up on sleep are tempting ways to while away Spring Break, but 10 SFSU students took a different route by choosing to spend their weeklong vacation volunteering for good causes in the community.

Through a semester-long class called "Care Break," offered by the Recreation and Leisure Studies Department, the students carefully researched and established partnerships with local organizations, then organized four days of community service excursions to take place during Spring Break.

Care Break students spent Monday doing arts and crafts with residents of the pulmonary sub-acute unit at Alameda Hospital.

23-year-old philosophy major Dario Sanchez spent his time at Alameda Hospital talking with a patient who speaks only Spanish and has few friends or relatives in the area. The language barrier that forced hospital employees to depend on janitorial staff to translate for them did not exist between Dario and the patient. They were able to converse freely.

"I made a collage with him, and I think I helped in making things more comfortable for him," said Sanchez, who said visiting the sub-acute unit was his favorite activity of the week. The students and patients exchanged addresses and plan to keep in touch as pen pals.

Tuesday was spent with residents of Mission Villa, an assisted living facility in Daly City. Much of the day was spent simply talking with residents, who, according to Mission Villa activities director John Westin, really look forward to visits.

"Especially young people like the students from SFSU. When they come into the room, the residents' eyes light up," he said.

Lake Merced benefited from the students' help on Wednesday. In partnership with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department, students picked up garbage at the south end of the lake and removed non-native South American ice plants from a sloping hillside. Parks and Recreation employee Randy Zebell led the group through a habitat restoration area at the lake, pointing out native California plants, and warning the students to watch out for alligator lizards.

In partnership with "Trips for Kids," a Marin-based non-profit, Care Break students spent Thursday mountain-biking in China Basin with 19 "at risk" middle schoolers from Sausalito's Willow Creek Academy. At the end of the ride, Care Break students donated their cycling helmets to TFK.

Students enrolled in Care Break seem genuinely inspired by their experiences in the class. While most students admitted that their original reason for taking the course was to satisfy some requirement, every student interviewed said they would take the class again if they could. In fact, two students who completed the class in 2003 volunteered again this year, despite the fact that they received no credit the second time around.

"The students spontaneously giving their helmets to TFK after our mountain bike ride, and starting pen pals with the patients at Alameda Hospital, are only a sample of the numerous stories that reinforce the power that this class can have on students and our community," said Erik Rosegard, Care Break instructor and assistant professor of recreation and leisure studies.

Care Break is a three-unit course designed to incorporate what is learned in the classroom into action in the community. At the beginning of the semester, students are divided into project groups that meet weekly to research local community service agencies. Each group decides on an agency to work with and then proceeds to plan the day of service.

"The class is definitely a match between academics and community service," said Rosegard. "What I found is that when the students actually research the population, the agency they're going to be working with and the problem they're going to address, they have more buy-in and it's that much more of a powerful experience for them."

-- Public Affairs Student Writer Elizabeth Davis with Matt Itelson


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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications