When you think of spring break, what do you think of? Getting tan at the beach? Hanging out with friends? Or do you think of working on repairing damaged homes, promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, and helping young immigrant students? For some UGA students, they think service. And that service includes everything from rebuilding neighborhoods, to promoting animal rights, to preventing human trafficking. UGA’s IMPACT organization places students in various high need cities around the United States. During their winter or spring break, the students complete a weeklong service project.
Senior and IMPACT Site Leader Devon Freas began participating in these trips her sophomore year, and has gotten to go to three different cities through IMPACT. “Sophomore year was my first year, and I went to Ashboro, North Carolina, and that was for affordable housing, so we did a lot of work with Habitat for Humanity. Last year, I went to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for HIV/AIDS awareness, and this year, I’ll be leading a trip to Atlanta for human trafficking/human rights,” says Devon.
Participants are assigned based on a lottery system. They rank which cities they want to visit, and are assigned randomly. But whether you’re in your first year in school, or your twelfth, it doesn’t matter. IMPACT Executive Coordinator Brittany Smith prefers this lottery system, and says that it gives everyone a chance to be a part of the program. “It’s really nice,” explains Brittany.” “It gives everyone a chance to participate, and it doesn’t discriminate between seniors and freshmen – we try to give as many people the chance to participate.”
Senior and Site Leader Rehan Hossain says, “It’s not really about the location, it’s more about the focus. You want to find something that you’re passionate about.”
IMPACT Executive Member and Outreach Coordinator Thomas Stukes says that they have focuses for pretty much every type of service, whether you want to help people, children, animals, or the environment. “We have 15 different focuses, so there’s a number of different things that students can involved with, and it’s really to ignite the passion to serve in different communities, and bring it back to Athens so that we can create a better community here.”
Since IMPACT’s beginning in 1994, over 1800 UGA students have participated in their service projects. Still not convinced you should join? From what I learned today, you’ll definitely be missing out. Every single one of the members I’ve talked with said that participating in these trips have added so much to their UGA experiences and changed their lives.
It’s too late to get involved for this spring break, but if you’re interested for next year, go to IMPACT’s website at impact.uga.edu. Applications for both winter and spring break trips come are due in October, so definitely be on the look out!