March 9, 2010
Elizabeth Klipp, 404-413-1356
Instead of traveling to a beach destination or relaxing at home this week, a cadre of Georgia State students are using their spring break to build stronger communities and touch the lives of those in need.
From tutoring at-risk students in New Orleans to helping the homeless right here in Atlanta, they are tackling social issues through several service learning opportunities.
"To say you went to Costa Rica and helped out a community during your spring break shows you are an international volunteer and you care about the international community," said Andrea Dean, a 22-year-old exercise science senior and vice-president of Georgia State's Allied Health Sciences Club.
Dean's organization and the Georgia State chapter of the American Undergraduate Dental Association teamed up to organize the spring break trip to Costa Rica. There, the 12 students will provide residents much-needed dental care • such as teeth cleaning, identifying oral diseases and tooth extractions, as well as medical care like performing physicals, taking patient histories and monitoring vital signs.
The students will be supervised by licensed physicians and dentists from the Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures, a non-profit organization humanitarian association based in Costa Rica.
Additional spring break service trips across the United States have been organized by Georgia State's Panther Breakaway program, which is part of the national alternative break movement.
"It's one thing to do service projects here and there and then step away from them and forget," said Jasmine Shergill, a senior managerial sciences major who is the student director of Panther Breakaway at GSU. "But when you spend an entire week in a community and study the larger social issues after your service hours, you become a part of that community, and a part of the solution."
About 30 GSU students are going to New Orleans to help at-risk students prepare for the state assessment test. Other students are heading to central Florida, where they'll be working on environmental projects in the Everglades.
In Richmond, Va., about 20 students will be working to help those in poverty, while roughly 20 students will stay in Atlanta to lend a hand to programs that help the needy and at-risk youth.
Georgia State conducted its first Panther Breakaway during spring 2002 and sent 12 students and four staff members to Washington D.C. to address homelessness and HIV/AIDS awareness issues. Throughout the years, students have performed short term, meaningful projects and strive to address social issues such as literacy, poverty, racism, hunger, homelessness and environmental awareness.
"The impact of the experience can serve as a catalyst for a life-long commitment to active citizenship," said Lovell Lemons, director of Georgia State's Office of Civic Engagement. "Most students will continue to engage in thoughtful action as they recognize and become more aware of social issues beyond their week of service."