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Hornets get busy in the community for Alternative Spring Break

During Alternative Spring, Sac State's annual event that allows volunteers to give back to the community, participants helped complete several outdoor projects, including digging up weeds, preparing garden beds and building compost bins. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

Sacramento State students, staff and faculty got dirty on their down time to give back to the community as part of Alternative Spring Break 2024.

An Alternate Spring Break volunteer works on crafting a bench.
A volunteer works on crafting a bench on the Sac State campus during Alternative Spring Break. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

More than 60 University volunteers spent March 18-22 hard at work on campus and at a local elementary school, digging up weeds, preparing garden beds, and building benches, compost bins and even a pond for rescued turtles.

This year’s annual event was organized by the Community Engagement Center (CEC), Sacramento State College Corps, Sustainability, and Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Hornet Events and Activities Team (HEAT).

“Alternative Spring Break gives not only students, but staff and faculty as well, the chance to really connect with our community both on and off campus,” CEC Volunteer and Programs specialist Brooke Major said.

“Not all students have the privilege to be able to go home or somewhere else for spring break, so this is something local for them to get their hands dirty and give back to the community and learn things as well.”

College Corps, a community-service program that offers students professional experience as well as a living allowance, teamed with Sac State Sustainability to put students to work in the BAC Yard and Capital Public Radio Garden.

“Sustainability is already here and doing all this work, and they needed volunteers,” said Nancy Yuan, College Corps Fellow advisor and coordinator. “Our fellows need volunteer hours, so Alternative Spring Break is an opportunity to gain more hours.

“And some students told me they have nothing to do during spring break so they might as well volunteer.”

Volunteers spent Monday through Thursday preparing garden beds for planting, building benches out of wood and cement blocks, and creating a pond where rescued turtles will provide a natural fertilizer for a soilless, aquaponics garden.

“I wanted to stay local and contribute to my community instead of doing something I didn’t feel as much of a connection to. It’s been really fun … and cool to learn about Sustainability and all the work they do.” -- Ramneek Khalsa, second-year social work student at Sac State

This year, Waste and Sustainability Coordinator Laura Gonzalez-Ospina added a teaching element so volunteers could learn ways to combat climate change and be more eco-friendly, whether at a small apartment, large home or on campus.

“Students weren’t just doing the work without any context,” Gonzalez-Ospina said. “People who signed up for only one day kept coming back because they wanted to know more and wanted to see the completion of a project.

“They don’t have to go far to make a change.”

Ramneek Khalsa, a second-year social work student, said she learned a lot during her volunteer hours.

“I wanted to stay local and contribute to my community instead of doing something I didn’t feel as much of a connection to,” she said. “It’s been really fun … and cool to learn about Sustainability and all the work they do.”

Drew Dailey, a new College Corps fellow, started the week removing gravel and tamping the ground in preparation for building hot compost bins.

“I have a passion for gardening and hydroponics, so when I heard about this, I really wanted to utilize that and gain more experience and also try to just help out on campus,” Dailey said. “It’s cool to be able to walk by and say, ‘I helped build that.’

“I also like to be active and get out in the sun.”

Kayla Vang expected to get her hands dirty but was surprised how much she learned about recycling, composting and beekeeping as well as Sac State Sustainability’s efforts to reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

“I had a lot of free time, and I wanted to get more involved on campus,” Vang said. “I didn’t know about the BAC Yard, so I wanted to check it out.

“So far, we’ve been weeding and learning about ... reducing, reusing and recycling,” Vang said.

Kayla Koroush, the marketing and outreach manager for ASI’s Office of Student Engagement and Outreach, put together a garden cleanup at Sequoia Elementary School in the Rosemont neighborhood a few miles from campus.

Volunteers spent Friday pulling weeds and cleaning neglected garden beds so children could plant herbs and vegetables after school.

“When we got here, it was a mess,” HEAT Student Event coordinator Aliyah Jackson said. “It was almost all weeds and dead plants. But now it’s all nice and ready for new stuff.”

Jackson said students were quick to sign up for Friday’s gardening event.

“As a student, that’s surprising because during spring break you don’t expect to be volunteering,” she said.

Sac State students also planned crafts and activities for the kids.

Koroush, who plans service events to enhance students’ college experience, said the No. 1 reason they volunteer is to connect with other people. So, she always gathers volunteers in a circle to introduce themselves.

“I don’t want everyone to be siloed, working quietly and not looking or talking to each other,” Koroush said. “They’re actually going to get to know people so they can recognize each other on campus.”

Alternative Spring Break volunteers salute Stingers Up near a Sac State Sustainability shed.
A group of more than 60 volunteers, including students, staff and faculty, worked during their spring break to complete various community projects as part of Alternative Spring Break. (Sacramento State/Bibiana Ortiz)

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About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with being a mom. When she isn’t chauffeuring her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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