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While some school spring breaks begin as early as the end of February, scores of others start the week of March 14. But whenever the schedule, supporters agree that organized service-oriented alternatives are meaningful, life-changing events.

“These opportunities will change your life,” said Virginia Tech’s Ayla Wilk, a junior chemistry and biochemistry major. “It sounds really cliche, but when a trip is done right and the work is meaningful, and not necessarily meaningful to you but meaningful to the organization, you really come to respect how much of a role you can play in a short period of time.”

Some college students will be following the Gospel during spring break with the Campus Crusade for Christ organization in Panama City Beach, where they hope to pull together 1 million meals to ship to Haiti in conjunction with the Global AIDS Network and Kids Against Hunger.

The students also hope to share their faith with the tens of thousands of other students who descend upon the beach and have them lend a helping hand.

For others, an alternative spring break means thinking about employment prospects.

Christine Murtha of South Dakota State University says that’s why she is headed for the Cheyenne River Reservation. The reservation was recently struck by a blizzard and ice storm, and many of its small 13 communities lack water and sewer systems.

A junior whose studies focus on Spanish education and American Indians, Miss Murtha told the student newspaper, the Collegian, “In the future, I want to work on the reservation and be a teacher and create after-school programs, and this is a good way to get firsthand experience of the needs on reservations.”