Students use fall break for service

students volunteer during alternative fall break

Over fall break, 22 Carolina students gave a total of 480 hours of time to serve the community instead of going home or on vacation. Two groups participating in the Alternative Break Program offered by the Leadership and Service Center headed to opposite ends of the state to make a difference in the community – while also being part of a life-changing experience for themselves.

Eleven students, including student trip leader Tina Maurer, a junior exercise science major, plus service ally Luis Sierra, a leadership coach in the Leadership and Service Center, headed to Spartanburg, S.C., to work with Christmas in Action, a nonprofit that helps repair homes for the elderly and disabled. The group spent time repainting the home of an 87-year-old woman and two stores in the Woodruff area. They also worked in Christmas in Action’s warehouse helping them organize donations received from companies like The Home Depot.

The other group, planned by student trip leader Christina Campigotto, a junior public relations major, and including service ally Nakia Strickland, assistant director of multicultural student affairs, went to Johns Island on the S.C. coast. They helped the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity, which helps eliminate substandard housing by constructing and rehabilitating homes for families to improve their living conditions. While the group was in Johns Island, they painted and cut sheetrock for a home that was being built for a family. The group spent some time working alongside the homeowner as it is a requirement of Habitat for Humanity that the homeowner work 400 hours on their house.

Kelly Wuest, Leadership and Service Center director, says students who commit themselves to service over a school break often find they gain more from their college experience than they expect.

“This is so much more than just doing community service,” she said. “These excursions allow students to see and understand the impact they can have and how to truly be change agents. They don’t simply go on a trip. They have meaningful hands-on experiences with guided learning that embolden them to continue to do more.”

The students reflect that in their post-trip evaluations, as noted in these anonymous quotes.

  • “I learned that even the little things make a huge difference for those in need. I will definitely do another alternative break!”
  • “The portions of the trip that were most meaningful to me were gaining friendships, making a difference in the community and seeing how many people actually care.”
  • “I learned how serving for just a couple of days makes a huge difference in a community.”
  • “I learned that there are people who are actually struggling, and we truly made a difference for them. I loved this experience.”
  • “I had a great experience and would love to do another alternative break. I learned about working with a team of strangers and becoming a team. I also learned how good it is to impact someone.”

Carolina students are headed on two trips during winter break (registration closed last week), but students soon can sign up for seven spring break trips. Faculty and staff can take part in future alternative break trips by serving as service allies. Service allies have a genuine interest and commitment to engaging students through service. While on the alternative break trips, service allies participate alongside up to a dozen USC students on the service project, interact with students during times of reflection and provide new insights to students. All expenses are covered for faculty and staff serving in this role.

For more information, contact Ashley Byrd-White, leadership coach in the Leadership and Service Center, at 803-777-8198 or


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