BALTIMORE, Md. —This year’s Howard University Alternative Spring Break program (HUASB) sent Howard students to 14 states and Puerto Rico. Taking place from March 4 to March 11, the service-learning experience encourages students to personify Howard’s values by engaging with underserved communities. Led by senior Marketing major, Syeara Dunlap, 23 Howard students traveled to Baltimore, Maryland. to carry messages focused on community outreach and education. The week’s activities included visiting high schools, middle schools and the Boys and Girls Club of America to give students a window into the world of higher education.
During the one-week break, Howard University’s initiative and presence in these communities changed the way some students perceived higher education. Many of the students at Reginald F. Lewis High School are not given the sort of guidance that would lead them toward attending college, and as a result, they often don’t consider it. Speaking about the effect Howard ASB had on his peers, college-bound senior Anthony Dismel said, “It definitely opened their minds a little bit about college. When you have a college come to you and speak, it’s a better opportunity.”
The students at these Baltimore schools face the dangers of gun violence, sexual harassment, drug addiction and other issues at home and at school. The Howard students participating in this ASB trip carried messages of encouragement. In reflecting on her own conversations, Howard junior Jalen Hasan wanted to educate Reginald F. Lewis students on the opportunities available to them after high school. She and her fellow classmates emphasized that college is not the only option and that they should not feel constrained to their neighborhoods.
Just as the students in Baltimore had their eyes opened to the world outside of their community, so did Howard students, many of whom came from comparatively privileged educational backgrounds. Freshman computer science major Shemaya Bridgewater, recognized this environment as a reflection of some of the institutions in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago; schools that are ignored by the government and offer very little opportunity to their students. Howard junior Nadya Wutoh echoes this idea saying, “The system in the school has failed them in a way. They haven’t been providing equal opportunity to all of the students.” In her assessment, students are sometimes provided with opportunities based on seemingly arbitrary criteria. “I just don’t agree with that because I feel like they’re choking the success of kids,” said Wutoh.
HUASB has given participating students insight into the struggles faced by underprivileged communities as well as insight into their own interests and passions. From developing professional skills to considering new career paths, Howard students are leaving the experience even more dedicated to exemplifying Howard’s motto: “Truth and Service”. Wutoh said, “I gained more insight into what I wanted to do. I knew I always wanted to be an attorney. I thought, specifically I wanted to work in real estate development, in terms of low-income areas and providing affordable housing, but I’m also interested now in making sure funds are properly allocated in schools and making sure these kids are actually taken care of and that they’re not being forgotten or ignored.”
The spring break experience left these Howard students with a new perspective on what true support looks like. “By us being here, we’ve provided physical support for these students that they may not get once we leave or before we even got here and that presence is significant,” said Dunlap. The experience of getting to make a difference in younger people’s lives has motivated many Howard students to return to the program in the future.
For more information on Alternative Spring Break, visit the website at: https://giving.howard.edu/alternative-spring-breakand follow them on Instagram and Twitter @huasb.
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.
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