While many students use winter break as a time to kick-back, relax, and recover from a busy fall semester, a group of Virginia Tech students is traveling to the Dominican Republic during the break to serve the community as participants in the YMCA at Virginia Tech’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program.

On Jan. 6, ten students will travel to the Dominican Republic to work with community members of Punta Garza, Hato Mayor, to construct a school that will provide adequate facilities for children who cannot afford the birth documents necessary to attend public school. During their stay, students will have the opportunity to directly interact with the children for whom the school is being built.

The students will stay at a host site in the Dominican Republic for the duration of their stay. In order to participate, students must raise the necessary funds to cover the cost of airline tickets, food, work supplies, and donations to the host site during their stay.

"Alternative Break opportunities not only benefit the communities the students serve, but they also contribute to the overall development of the students themselves," said Sandy Wirt, Student Programs Director of the YMCA at Virginia Tech. "These experiences provide participating students with important leadership skills; dramatically enhance their understanding of different peoples and cultures; and emphasize the importance of service to others."

Past Alternative Break programs have included trips to Biloxi, Miss., and DeLeon Springs, Fla., to assist with hurricane relief efforts, Denver, Colo., to work at YMCA Camp Shady Brook, as well as Habitat for Humanity, and Sri Lanka, to assist with tsunami affected orphanages. The YMCA also offers alternative break trips during Thanksgiving break and spring break.

The ASB program at Virginia Tech has been sending students on break-related trips for 20 years. The program at Virginia Tech is going through change and is expanding to better serve both the student volunteers and the host communities. During the past two years, international trips have included a 2004 trip to Guatemala and a 2006 visit to Sri Lanka. For more information please visit the YMCA Student Programs website.

Persons interested in making a donation for a student to participate in an Alternative Break trip should direct funds to: YMCA at Virginia Tech, 312 Squires Student Center (0546), Blacksburg, Va. 24061. Note the word “donation” on the memo line of the check so that it is directed to the Alternative Breaks scholarship fund.

YMCA Student Programs is a young adult organization that provides opportunities to develop leadership skills, experience civic engagement through volunteer service, and actively explore career options with hands-on experience. All of the YMCA’s programs are comprised of student and community volunteers, run by young leaders, and advised by YMCA professional staff.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech is the most comprehensive university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is among the top research universities in the nation. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to quality, innovation, and results through teaching, research, and outreach activities. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.

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