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Break with Tradition
By Karen Sanborn '04

Most students pack suntan lotion, a beach towel and aspirin in their luggage for spring break.

But when Jessica D'Avanza '06 packed her bag this spring, she took My Antonia by Willa Cather, old sneakers and food for the road. She, and the more than 100 other members of Alternative Break Challenge, weren't planning spring flings to Key West. They were breaking ground, quite literally, in locations all over the United States.

D'Avanza and seven other students traveled to Omaha, Neb., to help Habitat for Humanity rebuild a burned-out house for a local family. When the alarm clock jangled at 7 a.m. each morning, the group loaded into a van, drove to work and climbed to the roof to start nailing shingles. "We even ate our lunch on the roof," she says.

ABC is a student-run group that organizes community service projects across the country during spring break week. This year, students traveled to 11 different locations, including Cherokee, N.C., and Grand Rapids, Mich., to help on construction projects, trail maintenance or tutoring.

Genia Sullivan '96 started ABC in 1993. All trips are alcohol- and drug-free; participants pay a fee, usually less than $200, to cover expenses.

"The experience is life-changing," reports D'Avanza. "A lot of us want to get together when school starts again to volunteer on local Habitat projects."

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