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Alternative Spring Break at Howard University

HUASB has immersed participants in unique cultures to provide immediate assistance and to reflect on the challenges prevalent in communities throughout society. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ASB has consistently taken students to New Orleans in an effort to rebuild the city. In 2009, in a demonstration of the University's commitment to ASB, the program was adopted by the office of the president and the mission expanded to include the cities of Detroit, Chicago, and D.C.

The following year, Atlanta was added. In 2011, Haiti was selected as the first international destination in response to the displacement and devastation that occurred in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. 

The next year, the program expanded domestically to include Memphis and Baltimore. In 2014, a few new sites were added, which included St. Louis, Newark, and West Virginia, bringing ASB to ten sites total.

On October 22, 2014, Howard University was named to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction, which is the highest federal award an institution can receive for service learning and civic engagement. ASB was the major focal point in this distinction.

For 26 years, HUASB has been committed to serving communities in need and involving students in meaningful service projects. ASB connects students to the significance of their education and prepares them to be servant leaders for the nation and the world.​​

Cities We've Visited

In September 2017, roughly 70% of the island of Anguilla was devastated by Hurricane Irma—a category 5 storm that wiped out churches, schools, homes, and government buildings. Prior to the storm, leaders in the community began a crusade against nation-wide issues such as crime and gun violence.

Youth, in particular, have taken a stand through local media. In addition to helping rebuild post-devastation, Howard University Alternative Spring Break (HUASB) seeks to assist in the restoration of Anguilla by combatting violence through youth empowerment. During the week-long service trip, HUASB volunteers served in various educational and social development settings.

Beaumont has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes - from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. The reported overall crime in Beaumont, TX is 6,000, 90% higher than the average of crimes committed in the nation, which sits at 2,000 per 100,000. When it comes to violent crimes, the crime rate is 156% higher than the Texas average and 188% higher than the national average.

Howard University Alternative Spring Break strived to assist in the recovery of Beaumont, Texas by working with the Youth Young Adult Fellowship Alliance, Salvation Army and the Southeast Texas Food Bank. During the week, participants addressed problems prevailing in North and Southeast Beaumont, served under the initiative - combating violence through civic engagement with a concentration in community restoration and youth empowerment. We focused on issues that have been exacerbated and caused by Hurricane Harvey while creating an environment that challenges the youth to take action in order to transform their community.

35.9% of Belle Glades' population live below the poverty line, which is higher than the national average of 14.7%. Additionally, Belle Glade has a graduation rate of 63.6%, compared to the 83.2% of students who gradate high school nationally . Because of the lack of resources, many people turn to crime to fulfill their needs. As of 2016, Belle Glade is only 3% percent safer than other cities across nation, which is a high number for a city whose population is approximately 19,000.

The community of Belle Glade is struggling to get resources so that their residents can thrive in this society. Howard University Alternative tackled these issues through our initiative: dismantling social injustice through youth empowerment and self-sustainability. We supported the community through their struggles and provided resources to help families get back on their feet. ASB also sought to impart insightful information to the youth in the community so that they can go into higher learning and eventually into a professional career.

In December 2014, the federal government opened the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas (approximately 80 minutes southwest of San Antonio). This detention center is the largest in the United States and houses immigrant mothers and young children who fled their home countries, in Central America, due to life-threatening violence.  Although a judge’s order recently ruled that the detention center was not a licensed child care facility and is improperly housing an estimated 1,900 mothers and their children, valid claims to asylum under American laws, are still being threatened. Without legal representation, these immigrants’ due process rights are often violated and both the women and children, in the facility, face the possibility of deportation.

Dilley, Texas was a 2017 Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break Program site. This site was an inter-institutional collaboration on social justice between CARA (CLINIC, AILA, RAICES, and AIC). These organizations joined forces in response to ICE’s significant expansion of family detention, and to address a growing need, recruitment teams travel to Dilley every week and participate in mandatory on-the-ground training sessions. The work included client intakes, credible fear and reasonable fear preparations, credible and reasonable fear representations, bond hearing representation, and bond hearing presentation.

Bahama Village is the oldest residential community in Key West with rich Bahamian history. This is the first area where the Bahamian settlers arrived in the 1800s. Over 22.5% of the population of Bahama Village is below poverty level compared to 10.2% of the population of Key West (Census, 2012). Bahama Village is a community that is being directly affected by the pressures of a growing tourist industry and locale where the rich and upper and middle classes tend to gentrify. There is even an existing stigma across the Florida Keys where tourists have been supposedly advised to avoid the sub-community of Bahama Village due to its rampant drug trafficking and sales. 46 percent of households out of a total of 31,391 households Keyswide are barely making ends meet, struggling to pay even the most basic monthly costs of living.

Before the catastrophic impacts of Hurricane Irma in 2017, housing was a main struggle within communities in the Florida Keys. These residents are living paycheck to paycheck just to try to provide a stable home for their families. During the week, ASB participants helped restore and rebuild the community of Big Pine Key. Participants also assisted in the community of Bahama Village providing activities for the children to help combat the trauma they have experience from losing everything in this natural disaster.

In 2018, ASB sent more than a hundred students to serve in two differents areas of Houston, Texas--Third Ward and Fifth Ward.

The Fifth Ward, located in Harris county, has one of the city's highest concentrations of former prisoners and an equally high incarceration rate. Student volunteers called to ASB 5th Ward served the area under the initiatives of community restoration and combatting mass incarceration through creative expression. Throughout the week we worked with programs that use various forms of art as a means to mentor at risk youth in addition to helping restore the community through civic engagement in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

In Third Ward, youth are the driving force of the community and their experiences are shaped by a number pf political and socio-economic facors out of their control. After seeing their community devastated by Hurricane Harvey, facing massive gentrification and a serious deficit in adequate education - we went to empower them.

Newark Public Schools serves 35,543 students in 71 public education settings. Only 54.4% of those students are proficient in English language and 49.98% are proficient in math. Governor Christie reported a 29% graduation rate for Newark Public Schools in 2012. During the same year, Newark reported 13,481 crimes including: 1,976 robberies, 1,093 assaults, 2,144 burglaries, and 4,093 thefts. Howard University Alternative Spring Break Newark continued its efforts towards high school retention with a sociopolitical awareness outlined in a well-structured curriculum focused on critical thinking.

The curriculum identified and hoped to rectify disparities in education, economics, and youth development. Howard University students worked in Newark Public High Schools providing tutoring, mentoring, and outreach. Additionally, Howard University Alternative Spring Break Newark collaborated with local grassroots organizations to take part in community development and engagement projects.

The city of Port Arthur can be considered one of the most dangerous cities in the state. More than 94% of communities in Texas have lower crime rates than Port Arthur. The rapid increase youth violence can be attributed to the immense crime in the city. In addition to the crime rate, Port Arthur's air quality is horrendous due to major oil companies residing across streets from marginalized homes and community centers. The American Lung Association gave Port Arthur an F for air quality, and asthma rates in the town are more than twice more than the national average.

It is evident that Port Arthur is in desperate need of help, and ASB has been called to serve. Our initiative for this site was combating youth injustice through art expression and health education. During our there, we worked to implement programs that will positively impact the entire community. ASB Port Arthur aimed to defer youth from crime involvement by helping them explore their talents. Along with talent expression, we implemented health education workshops, and programs, that encourage the youth to be knowledgeable of their environments, and keeping their health as a priority.

In 2017, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that sent winds of over 185 mph to demolish everything in its path, Dutch St. Maarten was left with more than 90% of its buildings destroyed. One of the island's major power plants suffered extensive damage as well and most of the area's inhabitants were left without food, water, power, and many other basic needs. Though the island's government did what it could to provide for its citizens, ASB contributed to these efforts.

75% of St. Maarten's inhabitants live below the poverty line. 22% of this population live in households that have no source of income and 43% of students never receive a secondary education. Lack of education perpetuates a cycle of poverty and leaves these households unable to develop ways in which to provide for their families. ASB St. Maarten was instrumental in encouraging the education of students to combat poverty and break the cycle through student mentoring.

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Our students need your support to continue serving. As you consider your giving options for the year, please consider helping us serve our underrepresented communities!