In the Public Interest

A Helping Hand During Bobcat Breaks

todayMarch 19, 2013 22

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Megan Carthel
KTSW New

Spring break might normally be thought of as a time for relaxation and sun, but for eight Texas State students, this spring break is all about others.

Bobcat break is an alternative spring break program. It is part of the Break Away national alternative spring break program and gives students a chance to help others, learn about themselves and make new friends.

Graduate assistant advisor for volunteer connection and Bobcat Break, Andrew Alexander, is heading up Bobcat Break this year. It is Alexander’s first time to both plan and attend Bobcat break.

Andrew Alexander

“I’m definitely excited to see the students grow, I mean, that’s why I’m in this field. So, a chance to see them going from day one not entirely knowing each other on the fifth day of knowing each other. And Just to see them grow and see that light go on and why everything’s going on.”
– Andrew Alexander

Alexander said the program received about 25 applications from students wanting to attend Bobcat Break. But, due to funding and space issues, he had to narrow it down to only eight students—a process he said took more than two hours.

“There were a lot of deserving people and if I could take more I would’ve, but we were definitely hindered by our numbers this year.”
– Andrew Alexander

This year, the group will be building a home for Habitat Humanity in the Houston area for five days. The first two days of the trip, the students will be doing deconstruction on the existing home. Alexander said deconstruction is more cost effective and efficient than demolition because Habitat for Humanity can use some of the building materials. The next two days will be spent constructing the new home. The last day the group will be working with Restore, which is what Alexander calls, Habitat for Humanity’s hardware store.

Habitat for Humanity

The students will get the chance to work side-by-side with the family they are building a home for. Alexander said the family has to put in their own hours. Jourdan Kolb, a student participating in Bobcat Break, said she is most excited to see the completed house and work with the family. She said working with the family makes the project a more personal and special venture.

“I feel like emotionally it’s almost inspiring. It makes you want to push hard, work harder and make everything perfect because this is probably their forever house.”
– Jourdan Kolb

Coordinator for student organizations at Texas State, Heather Campbell has gone to past Bobcat Breaks and other alternative spring breaks through the Break Away program at other institutions. Campbell said these type of trips change students and bring up many emotions. Campbell said she has seen some students even change their major when they come home.

“It also brings up a lot of emotions. Some students might have divorce in the family or have come from poverty and then are able to go to school. So through out the week you learn more about each other and now you’re building someone a house. They’re changing someone’s life dramatically.”
– Heather Campbell

Alexander said the students really get a chance to learn about themselves and why they are service-oriented people.

“I think it’s hard to label who benefits more because Habitat is obviously getting a lot of hours and the residents are getting a new home. But, the students are getting a lot. I think a lot of times students have these visions and these ideals and they’re not sure why. So going to a trip like this is really going to help students find their identity and help them see why they have a service-mindedness, this desire to serve and help people.”
– Andrew Alexander

Two weeks after the students come back from Bobcat Break, they all get together and have a reflection period on the events that took place. Campbell said many times there are tears when the group gets back together and reflects on their spring break.

Each year, Bobcat Break is in a different location. There have been trips to New Mexico and Louisiana. Last year, the group went to Houston and worked with the Boys and Girls Club, Healthy Foods and a local church to help feed the homeless. Alexander hopes to get some students who go to Bobcat Break this year to help plan out the trip next year.

“It’s a great way for students to like take time out of their spring break, which is a big deal for a student to do already, and then to pay to go do this, it’s a great way for our students to give back.”
– Andrew Alexander

Kolb is hoping to learn that things don’t come easy for everyone. She is excited to see her what her work and the other students’ work produces.

“I guess I just want to learn what it’s like to put in the work and instead of just giving money, I’m actually seeing the work get put in. That’s just really what I wanted to do, was go out there get the hands on experience and see the results.”
– Jourdan Kolb

Campbell said it is hard for many students to leave town with people they do not know, but after they put the work in and see the results of what they are doing, the students change.

“I’ve never had to build my own home. I’ve never been in that situation. So, doing this really puts things in perspective.”
– Jourdan Kolb

Including the advisors, the whole group will put in about 400 hours dedicated to helping others this spring break, according to Campbell. Alexander said alternative spring break programs, like Bobcat Break, are a growing trend across the nation.

Alexander plans to take Bobcat Break somewhere different next year and hope to take more students. For more information on Bobcat Break you can check out Student Volunteer Connection at www.lbjsc.txstate.edu/svc.

To listen the full Non-Traditional Spring Break Podcast, click the link below.

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