In Your Words

Service as a Way of Life: Nya Parker, Alternative Spring Break Executive Student Director

Nya Parker headshot

Nya Parker, a senior from Norfolk, Virginia who is majoring in biology with minors in chemistry and political science, is this year’s Alternative Spring Break executive student director.

Why is service important to you?

Growing up, my grandmother – the matriarch of the family – taught us to be caring, giving and selfless. It’s always been instilled in me – the term “service” wasn’t what I thought of it as. It was always about being nice and being a servant to God. We always put God and family and the ones you love first. I’ve always been that way. When I heard of Alternative Spring Break and got involved, I was like, “Wow, this is what I needed to guide me through college.”

Why should service be important to everyone, especially at Howard?

We’re right here near the center of D.C. and using its resources. It’s important that we always give back and show our appreciation to the natives of the city.

How do you make time for service?

People make time for what they want to. Even if you go out and have fun, you can make time to do service. Service can be a simple act – like buying a cup of coffee for someone else when you get your coffee in the morning. People confuse service with helping someone who is in desperate need. It doesn’t have to be a desperate situation. We all can use an extra hand in life.

What skills/knowledge have you learned from service?

Most of the skills I’ve gained since being at Howard I have to give credit to Alternative Spring Break for. First, it’s a confidence booster. As a site coordinator, I learned to make phone calls and ask [organizations], “Hey, do you mind donating food to 30 people for a week or [letting students stay] at your church and use your showers so we can give back to your community?” I also gained technical skills, like how to write a professional email and how to utilize all the components of Microsoft excel. I also learned how to be more personal when building relationships with others while also being grateful for the privileges I had in life.

What is your most memorable project?

Freshman year, I was a site coordinator for Alternative Spring Break, which is not typical of freshmen. I got to plan a trip for 30 individual students and found housing and donated meals for us. I felt like I was at a full-time job while being a full-time student. We worked with schools during the day and spent time with the Girls & Boys Club after school.

Alternative Spring Break is one of the greatest programs I’ve ever seen in my life. Before the pandemic, we had over 1,200 students sign up to go volunteer. That’s a huge percent of our student body. After reflecting on the process of planning the trip and then to actually see it come to life successfully was very rewarding.

How will service continue for you after Howard?

I always want service to be incorporated in everything I do. Right after college I plan on focusing on medical school and preparing for MCAT, but as an OB-GYN I want to do pop-up clinics around the world to underserved communities and give prenatal care for those who don’t have access to regular care.