by Mike Kerrane

To most people, spring break is a time to get away from the grind of the semester, have fun, and unwind in some warm, exotic part of the world. Last year, Olivia Lucas, a junior Honors political science major, spent her spring break in Newark, New Jersey. And she wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

As a member of the student organization UDAB (University of Delaware Alternative Break), Olivia traveled with a group of 14 other students and three site leaders to partner with Camp Vacamas, an organization that seeks to improve the lives of at-risk youth. The setting was bleak: “We saw entire blocks of boarded up houses. On the corner of one there was a house that was completely burned down,” Olivia said. But in their week there, the UDAB students were able to work with 6 to 14 year-old kids doing art projects and just generally having fun. As you would expect, Olivia found the whole experience extremely rewarding.

In 2012, Olivia will again spend her spring break on a UDAB trip, this time one headed for Washington DC, where UD students will work with Bright Beginnings, a daycare and youth services organization that works with homeless children. And there’s an added wrinkle: this year, Olivia will serve as a site leader.

Being a site leader means that Olivia is responsible for the logistics of her trip and the students on it. It is also means that she is involved with UDAB throughout the year, conducting fundraising efforts and running participant meetings that emphasize group bonding and training. In only its second year, UDAB is already garnering a lot of attention. “We had so many applications this year. It’s really exciting, but it’s also pretty sad,” Olivia said, regretting that UDAB has to turn down so many people who are eager to be involved. She says it’s important for people to realize that alternative break means more than just a rewarding way to spend your time off. “It’s not just about having a great week. It’s about what you’re going to do afterwards. It’s about becoming an active citizen.”

Olivia seems to have taken her own message to heart and says that her experiences last year inspired her. After graduation, she is interested in pursuing a career in inner-city education.