Mexico was a popular spring break vacation spot for students, but not everybody went there to party with their friends. Many students took trips to help out communities and learn about life in other countries.
Prof. Ian Robinson”s Sociology 460 class took a field trip to the U.S.-Mexico border to investigate the affects of the North American Free Trade Agreement which regulates the flow of goods and services between the countries on worker”s rights, the cost of living and child labor.
“NAFTA helps to create some of the problems that we saw there. Cities are growing very fast and the government can”t cope with it,” said Robinson.
Alternative Spring Break, another issues-based way for students to spend their time off, was a popular choice for those wanting to spend spring break in an unconventional way by helping people in 30 communities, including Detroit, Harlem, Boston and El Paso, Texas.
ASB gave students the chance to volunteer in different ways. Some volunteer opportunities included tutoring at-risk children who attend inner-city schools in St. Paul, Minn. working at soup kitchens and informational centers for people living with AIDS in Detroit, New York and Chicago and working with physically and mentally disabled adults at Camp Fowler in Mayville.
One team went down to Little Havana, Fla. to work with Cuban immigrants. They were given opportunities to work in legal clinics, clinics for Alzheimers patients and child day care centers.
“The best part was just listening to these people tell their stories,” said Andrea McDonald, an RC sophomore who lead the team and worked in the legal center. “We heard stories about why they are here, how they got here, people floating over on rafts.”
Students were allowed to choose their site by ranking issues that were most important to them.
Other sites dealt with helping immigration refugees, victims of domestic violence, environmental groups, people living in rural and poor communities, the homeless, and alternative drug-free programs for kids.
Local organizations such as St. Mary”s Church, Hillel, New Life Church, the School of Public Health and Sister 2 Sister also participated in various alternative spring activities.
While ASB allowed students to volunteer, other unconventional trips let students learn about everything from American history to living conditions in other countries.
Students on the Sociology 460 trip spent much of their time interacting with Hispanic families in the city of Nogales.
The class stayed in colonias, which are shanty towns built to accommodate the overflowing populations of some Mexican cities.
“The people there were really inspiring in lots of ways. From their perspective, they knew they were poor and they knew they were in a bad situation. At the same time they were still so incredibly happy to share their lives with us. They were so full of dignity and pride, it was amazing,” said Rodolfo Palma-Lulion, an LSA senior.
The class stayed in the colonias for two nights.
“It was a chilly, chilly night the first night we were there. The husband had built the house we stayed in, and there was no insulation. When you put your hand up against the wall, you could almost feel the wind,” he said.
Although they didn”t get a lot of rest and relaxation, students said they were happy with their decision to spend their breaks doing something besides partying with friends.
“It was fantastic. It was probably one of the best spring break trips ever taken,” Palma-Lulion said.
The class also visited a Ford Motor Company car plant and a toxic dump site that was recently closed down for violations against Mexican laws.
Other classes that took educational field trips during spring break included Lloyd Hall Scholars Program 113. The class took a field trip throughout the South to various cites that played a role in the civil rights movement.