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No ski vacation — nearly 500 Mizzou students continue tradition of service through volunteer service trips

Students will travel to 16 states, Washington, D.C., and the Dominican Republic for a week of service

January 10th, 2019

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353, ricesm@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. – When Mizzou students Ashley Oakley and Jessica Blankinship hit the slopes next week, they won’t be doing so on vacation. Instead, they will be volunteering with an adaptive ski program in Park City, Utah that allows children and people with disabilities to experience the thrill of skiing on fresh powder.

Oakley and Blankinship are just two of 475 University of Missouri students who have chosen to shorten their winter break by dedicating the week before the spring semester to volunteer service with Mizzou Alternative Breaks, the nation’s largest alternative break program. Participants will learn about important community issues such as education, health, homelessness and more.

“No one would blame college students for wanting to take it easy during a break,” said Jeff Zeilenga, dean of students at Mizzou. “However, the continued success of Mizzou Alternative Breaks is an example of what sets Mizzou students apart. They are committed to service and eager to be engaged in the global community.”

In the U.S., 433 Mizzou students will participate in the week of service. Some students will travel more than 1,000 miles from Mizzou’s campus in Columbia, Missouri, to volunteer with 43 different community organizations in 16 states and Washington, D.C. An additional 42 Mizzou students will serve internationally in the Dominican Republic teaching English and community health.

Besides working with adaptive ski programs, students will volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Ronald McDonald House. Activities include:

  • Serving the homeless populations in Washington, D.C., and North Carolina
  • Working with animal shelters in North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas
  • Providing health care with organizations in Tennessee and Pennsylvania
  • Building house for Habitat for Humanity in Alabama and South Carolina, and assisting with disaster relief projects in communities impacted by recent hurricanes

“Mizzou Alternative Breaks is not your typical, ‘college students traveling’ experience,” said Samantha Hopp, Mizzou senior and director of leadership and service for Mizzou Alternative Breaks. “Everything about our trips is decided and led by students. Leaders decide where the groups will go and what organizations they will serve. This isn’t a vacation and yet, year after year, students are excited to participate.”

Founded in 1991, Mizzou Alternative Breaks sends groups of students on service trips during weekend, Thanksgiving, spring, summer and winter breaks. Participants enter communities with the mindset of “serve, don’t help” — one of the program’s guiding principles.

In 2014, Mizzou Alternative Breaks announced a partnership with MU Extension and pledged to bring service trips to all of Missouri’s 114 counties by 2020. To date, the group has served 111 counties in the state and the city of St. Louis.

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