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Make it count: Spring Break alternatives

Students volunteer with Habitat for Humanity – New

Students volunteer with Habitat for Humanity – New York City. (Courtesy of Habitat-NYC) Credit: Students volunteer with Habitat for Humanity – New York City. (Courtesy of Habitat-NYC)

Are you forgoing the beach, debauchery and suntan lotion this Spring Break? There's good reason to do so. Skipping out frees you up for more personally ambitious activities.

"I think a lot of people have this vision of Spring Break - a hedonistic, drunkard scene on a bad beach - but how do you make it bigger than that?" said Robert Reid, the U.S. travel editor at Lonely Planet who has written extensively on travel trends. "From my perspective, there's so many ways to do it."

From taking an educational trip to volunteering, there are many benefits of using your off-time wisely. It can be a boon to your resume, will likely give you the feeling of accomplishment and will further prepare you for a professional career.

That may sound dull in comparison, but alternative spring break doesn't have to be a buzz kill. You can even still take that trip to Mexico - just instead of going to Cancun and hitting the beaches and parties, opt for a home-stay or a cultural exchange program. You'll work on your Spanish, and learn about the culture.

"Use your week and do something productive," said Reid, who offers up other ideas for educational trips at Lonelyplanet.com.

One volunteering option that is popular with college students is Habitat for Humanity. While the deadline has passed to sign up for the Collegiate Challenge, in which you travel to a Habitat site around the country, and stay for a week, often with a partner family, there are opportunities all the time to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity - New York City.

In the coming weeks there are two projects that need volunteers: one helping to revitalize a senior center in East Harlem by painting and helping with murals, another is painting a newly built home in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Volunteers can sign up anytime either as individuals or in small groups, said Carly Blatt, Communications Manager of Habitat-NYC.

"It's a nice way to give back to the community, and in this case, help a family move into their house," she said.

The volunteer organization Junior Achievement of New York is another option for college students looking to make a difference this Spring Break. The non-profit brings volunteers (both college students and working adults) into NYC and Long Island schools to teach students about financial literacy.

According to Reid, these experiences will make you more appealing to employers later, too.

"Think of it as a resume builder," he said. "It shows a lot of initiative to go out and get your fingernails dirty."

Junior Achievement President Joseph Peri agreed.

"There's no doubt these kinds of experiences are important for young people," he said.

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Volunteer opps.:


-- Junior Achievement of New York: Visit jany.org or contact KDrake@jany.org
-- Central Park Conservancy: The Pitch In, Pick Up project does not require registration. Info: centralparknyc.org/volunteer
-- Coalition for the Homeless: Serve the nearly 50,000 New Yorkers who are homeless. Contact: volunteer@cfthomeless.org
-- United Way of Northern New Jersey: Work with the needy. Contact: AlternativeSpring Break@UnitedWayNNJ.org or 973-746-4040, x 201
-- Habitat for Humanity - New York City: Check Habitatnyc.org or email volunteer@habitatnyc.org
-- The NYU School of Law Global Justice Clinic: Assist in a study on rights violations of construction workers in Sandy-affected areas of NYC. Contact: Anji Manivannan (am4800@nyu.edu) or Julia Freidgeim (jf2544@nyu.edu)

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