MC group spends Spring Break volunteering in Tuscaloosa

March 14, 2012
Contact: Office of Communications

A group of students and staff members from Maryville College are making plans to do something a little different this Spring Break.

Through the College’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, the group will spend the week of March 18-23 volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and Presbyterian Relief Assistance (PDA) in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The students will be housed at the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa and will be coordinating their efforts with Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa (HFHT) through PDA.

The group includes 13 Maryville College students, one staff member and an alumnus.

On April 27, the Tuscaloosa area was hit by a catastrophic F4 tornado. After the immediate response assistance left the area, PDA came in to continue to coordinate and house groups volunteering to do long-term recovery work. The Maryville College students will be working on these long-term recovery projects, along with members of HFHT.

Diana Curtis, coordinator for service learning and ministry at Maryville College, said she is especially looking forward to this year’s trip because of the new perspectives offered. All the students going—except for one—are participating in ASB for the first time. In addition, two of the students are international students. Curtis says other countries often view volunteer work in a different manner and that international students offer a “different perspective” on volunteering, which she looks forward to learning more about.

Along with being an opportunity to “do a lot of good work,” according to Curtis, ASB is also an opportunity for “a lot of fellowship.” Not only will the Maryville College students bond with each other, but they will also be working with the other groups who are volunteering at the same time, she said.

Students are responsible for doing all of the fundraising for the trip. So far, they have completed a Valentine’s Day fundraiser, and they had a rummage sale on March 3. ASB also received funds from Maryville College’s Student Government Association, as well as a grant from the Presbyterian Church.

Begun in 1996, Alternative Spring Break, or “ASB” as students refer to it, has become a tradition among Maryville College students. ASB and Alternative Fall Break are unique service opportunities for students, faculty and staff and are intended to provide learning experiences for students while strengthening the communities in which they volunteer.

About five years ago, ASB worked with PDA to assist with a relief project on the Gulf following Hurricane Katrina. Since then, ASB has volunteered with several different organizations. Curtis said she is excited to be working with PDA again. She believes there is a connection to this area not only because of the Presbyterian ministry, which is present both on Maryville College campus and in the Tuscaloosa area, but also because of the connection Maryville College students should have to this area, since it is also a college town.

While the focus of the trip will be on the volunteer work, Curtis said she will make sure that the students get to spend one night hanging out together in town, and they will have an opportunity to visit the University of Alabama campus. Students will be encouraged to bring games on the trip, and Curtis said she expects fellowship to be one of the main outcomes from the event.

Sophomore Hayden Brown participated in last year’s ASB, which involved working with Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte, N.C.

“Despite having worked on a construction site for five days, I felt completely reenergized going back to classes after the break,” Brown said. “I believe I’ll have the same rewarding and relaxing experience this year.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,198.