Instead of spending Thanksgiving feasting and relaxing with family, a group of Virginia Tech students is in New Orleans helping those in need. The trip is part of the YMCA at Virginia Tech’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) Program.

On Nov. 18, eighteen students headed to New Orleans to assist ongoing relief efforts from the devastation left after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the city in 2005. The students are helping with the city’s clean up as well as serving meals to the homeless and those who were displaced by the storms. The group will be able to witness much of the damage that remains but can also use the opportunity to enjoy the vibrant cultural features the city of New Orleans has to offer.

The volunteers are being hosted by a church in the West Bank of New Orleans as part of the YMCA’s partnership with the Louisiana United Methodist Storm Recovery Center. To participate, students had to raise the necessary funds to cover the cost of travel, food, and work supplies.

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 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.