Indiana State University Newsroom

Students give, receive during Alternative Spring Break

March 14, 2012

Elle Humbert returned from her first spring break as a college student tired - not from partying on the beach but from working to make life a little healthier and safer for children.

"It was a good tired because I felt so good about the experience," said the freshman communication major from Jasper.

Humbert was among several dozen Indiana State University students who took part in the university's ninth annual Alternative Spring Break in which participants journey to big cities, small towns and rural areas for community service.

Humbert and 12 other students spent four days in Lexington, Ky. working to help families that struggle with homelessness and poverty. They delivered hot meals to terminally ill adults, served food at a church-based soup kitchen, visited veterans in a nursing home and worked at Kids Café, which provides children with an after school meal, homework assistance and recreation at a park.

"Helping at Kids Café made the most impact on me," Humbert said. "The organization is limited on volunteers and it definitely needed a lot of help and housekeeping. It needed cleaning - a lot of cleaning. It sounds funny, but knowing that these kids are going to be coming into a cleaner environment and a safer environment, was the greatest feeling I've ever had."

Nearly 200 miles southeast of Lexington, a dozen other Indiana State students spent the week helping clean up a riverbank, encourage high school students to go on to college and construct a large sign that now welcomes visitors to Haysi, Va.

The tiny Appalachian community has struggled with poverty for generations and the students worked with the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project to encourage residents to take ownership and pride in their community and show other young people the value of an education beyond high school.

"They were curious about prices and ways to afford college and the different majors we have," said ISU freshman Kristen Duke.

A new 16-foot long welcome sign that greets motorists coming into town from the east may be the largest physical legacy of the ISU students' spring break trip.

"Haysi, where you're break begins," reads the sign in reference to a natural break in the mountains.

"They want visitors to feel welcome to not only there being a break in the mountains but a break away from the city," Duke explained.

"It was a very productive week," said Haysi Mayor Larry Yates. "We had a great group of participants. The students were very creative. The results from the art project are amazing and it's made a huge change in a blighted area of or town."

Kelsey Noble, a construction management major from Orleans, said the people of Haysi were welcoming and ready to share their stories. "Through Alternative Spring Break I had the opportunity to meet new people and make close friends while making spring break productive," she said. "It was wonderful to see how much the people of Haysi appreciated our work. I felt like I was able to relate with the people in Haysi because I am from a small community like theirs."

Duke, a nursing major from Greenwood said the hard work of cleaning up the bank of a mountain stream and helping to construct the huge welcome sign taught her patience.

"You're going to have struggles," she said. "You're going to have things that seem like you cannot do them but with patience and teamwork they all just come together."

After growing up in suburban Indianapolis just minutes away from Greenwood Park Mall, Duke said the Alternative Spring Break trip taught her to learn to appreciate a way of life that is vastly different than the one to which she was accustomed.

With no shopping mall in which to hang out, teenagers in Haysi spend their free time "muddin'" in four-wheel drive trucks, congregating at the local car wash, caring for livestock and pet animals - or just communing with nature, she said.

Their hosts treated the students from Indiana to a mountaintop campfire - a "phenomenal" experience, Duke said.

"There is no better word to describe it," she said. "There were no trees in the way. It was just an open sky. We were so high up it felt like the sky was right on us. We saw the stars and the full moon and could her the farm animals below us. It was gorgeous."

In addition to Lexington and Haysi, 15 Indiana State students spent their Alternative Spring Break in Atlanta, Ga. to help with an after-school program for immigrant children. Seven other students journeyed to Maryville, Tenn., located in the eastern band of the Cherokee Nation, to provide trail maintenance, gather and split firewood, assist senior citizens with craft projects and volunteer at a child development center.

Photo: - Kyla Eubank, a sophomore special education major from Paoli, plays with children at a Lexington, Ky. park. Eubank was among 13 Indiana State University students who helped with after-school programs for children as Part of Alternative Spring Break. (ISU/Rachel Wedding McClelland)

Photo: - Indiana State University students and Larry Yates (far left), mayor of Haysi, Va. pose with a welcome sign the students helped build as part of Alternative Spring Break activities in the Appalachian mountain community. (ISU/Zachariah Mathew)

Photo: - Jacob Asbury of Brownsburg, a senior philosophy major at Indiana State University, carries a child on his back during an Alternative Spring Break trip to Lexington, Ky. (ISU/Rachel Wedding McClelland)

Contact: Heather Miklozek, associate director, Center for Community Engagement, Indiana State University, 812-237-8996 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or