Vanderbilt Alternative Spring Break (written by Queen Stevenson)
On a cold March morning, rays of gold slice through the snow and ice clumped on the roofs under which twelve Vanderbilt University students fold clothes, paint walls, and water plants. I am one of them.
We are part of Alternative Spring Break, the largest student organization at Vanderbilt, boasting over 400 students. Like its name implies, Vandy Alternative Spring Break forges an unconventional path in that its participants engage in intensive community service instead of using spring break as an opportunity to party or lounge around. ASB has 39 sites, each with its own particular service project. There are options to work with the elderly and special needs population in Florida, to serve the Native American population in South Dakota, to spend 48 hours with Washington, D.C.’s homeless. Each site has about 8-12 participants and fosters complete and genuine community between the students not only on the job, but also as we live with each other for a week.
Our fearless site leaders, juniors Anthony and Natalie, and I along with nine other students traveled to snowy Pittsburgh to spend a week that would change our lives. Our service project is titled “Suddenly I See”, which is actually the name of a song by artist KT Tunstall building up the self esteem of a girl by praising her nuanced and unique qualities. The girl’s eyes are opened, and she is able to “suddenly see” her confidence and worth. In the same vein, our site gives us an incredible chance to serve the girls and young women of Gwen’s Girls, who are on the daily having their inner beauty and value being revealed to them.
The first day, we completed tasks around the building, such as lifting tables and sprucing up the chalkboards. The next few days are devoted to caring for and entertaining the younger girls and the older young women; on our last day we will each get to cater to a Gwen’s Girl chosen from either age group, based on our ease of interaction.
Personally, I screamed when I read the site description. I never dreamed that there would exist a project that encompassed my love for the hearts and souls of girls. I never dreamed that there would exist a site that focused not only on putting broken pieces back together, but also transcending the brokenness and producing true fruit in the lives of these girls. I never dreamed that I would receive an opportunity such as this so early on in my college career.
In a couple of hours, the young girls will arrive, and our excitement is tangible in the air. We have brainstormed games and activities for them. While we are so honored to serve them, we realize that it is they who are doing us the greater service; by the time we arrive on campus in a few days, our eyes will be opened to the true beauty of restoration and growth, only because Gwen’s Girls helped us to see it.