The thought of spring break often evokes stereotypical images of college students partying it up on the beaches of Cancun and other like destinations.
Ten Elgin Community College students sought a more rewarding way to spend their time by volunteering to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley.
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All this week, the students have been putting up drywall at a Habitat home being built in Carpentersville. They will receive one college credit in return for their effort.
"I'm not much of a beach person," said James Warner, 22, of Lake in the Hills. "All I was going to do this spring break was sit at home, play some video games, and clean my own house. This is something just to help out other people as opposed to helping myself."
Warner said he always wanted to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. ECC's Alternative Spring Break program provided the perfect avenue.
"I love it," said student volunteer Alex "A.J." Taylor of Algonquin. "I've never done drywalling before."
Taylor, 19, said his friends wanted to go to Florida or New York for spring break, while his parents wanted to visit his brother and their new granddaughter in Florida. Neither option was appealing to him.
Taylor said he usually is involved in the ECC community as president of student government and a member Phi Beta Kappa.
"Everybody kind of has their own thing," he said. "If I was to be doing stuff at home, I would probably be working on student government stuff. After I'm done (drywalling), I'm just going to go home and chill."
Olivia Vlahos, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley, said getting 10 dedicated volunteers for an entire week has been a big help.
"This past winter has been really hard on our volunteer recruiting," she said. "This was our first time partnering with ECC for an alternative spring break. So far, it's going really well. They are getting a lot of work done. It usually takes a couple of weeks to drywall a house. We're hoping by the end of the week that they will have finished the drywall. If it's nice outside, they may work on siding as well."
Katie Storey, ECC student life coordinator, said the college has created alternative spring break opportunities for students for several years based on student interest and partnerships within the community.
The college organized volunteers for a trip to New Orleans in 2006 to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
"Our partnership has been wonderful with Habitat for Humanity," she said. "It's a really big project for our students to be part of. The need is definitely there, and students being able to see the work that they have done, the impact they have back in the community, has just been wonderful. Seeing the end product is just going to be inspirational for them, and really fulfilling."