Not all college students are beach-bound this spring break. In fact, some students are spending their week-long mid-semester break to lend a hand in communities around the country.
A group of students at Howard University are participating in the school's Alternative Spring Break program, which offers students the opportunity to volunteer in another city during their spring holidays. However, this year holds special significance for participants at the HBCU who are headed to Missouri this week as Ferguson joins a selection of other cities among this year's program.
Howard students Ashton Ragsdale and Sable Givens discussed the motivation behind the innovative project with HuffPost Live’s Alyona Minkovski on Wednesday.
“I really felt that it was my obligation to serve these underserved communities, especially us as college students,” Ragsdale explains. “It’s very important for us to be in those spaces that people wouldn’t go to, make those connections, and just be in those classrooms and listen to the students of the community… make them understand that we are here for them.”
The program is designed to have students partner with organizations and institutions to partner with a community in whatever way they best can, often related to school visits and civil education.
“We go in as a helping hand. We’re not trying to ‘fix’ anybody,” said Givens.
When asked how they’ve been received by the Ferguson community -- especially in light of an arrest made in the shooting of two police officers -- Ragsdale said that the community’s response to their presence has been a positive one.
“They’ve been very joyous to see us. They understand it’s very important for us to be here at this moment. We’ve been welcomed by the community with open arms.”
Both Givens and Ragsdale are from St. Louis, and take their participation in the program personally. As Givens puts it, “Our city was crying out for help.”
And Howard University students were there to answer it.