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Students pay it forward during spring break

Bradley students built wheelchair ramps in Nashville last week as part of the Alternative Spring Break program.
photo via Alicia Petramale

While many Bradley students spent their spring break soaking up the sun on a Florida beach, relaxing on a Caribbean cruise or kicking back with the family, one group of 12 students sacrificed their week of rest for a greater cause.

For the past two years, students have been taking part in Alternative Winter and Spring Break trips to spend a week doing service projects in various U.S. cities.

“An Alternative Spring Break or Winter Break … provides students with an opportunity to enact social change in various cities around the country,” Jessica Chandler, coordinator of the trips, said.

Chandler was responsible for the introduction of alternative breaks at Bradley.

“I participated in a couple alternative break programs while I was an undergraduate student,” Chandler said. “I know the feeling of inspiration that comes from such service work in communities other than your own, so it was suiting that I would try to pass on the experience to those here at Bradley.”

Junior sociology major Alicia Petramale said she is no stranger to such trips, as last week marked her third alternative break experience.

“I get something different out of every trip, so each visit is uniquely rewarding,” Petramale said. “Last week we built wheel chair ramps for those with disabilities such as cerebral palsy.”

Students who took the trip said their feelings of gratification have been permanently imprinted in their minds due to the reactions of those who have been impacted by the group’s acts of kindness.

“An 11-year-old boy was able to leave his house by himself for the first time in his life, an elderly woman was able to leave her house for the first time in three years, and two others were able to get out of their homes easier and safer all because of the work that we were able to do while we were there,” Petramale said. “I honestly could not think of a more rewarding or worthwhile way to spend my break.”

Petramale said her favorite memory from the trip was when she saw a video of the 11-year-old boy using the wheelchair ramp she and her teammates had built.

“The joy that spread across his face was enough to bring me to tears, and that is what it is all about: Leaving the community having made an impact in the hearts and lives of the people in it,” Petramale said.

Due to popular demand, an alternative break during spring semester was introduced this year for the first time, according to Jessica Chandler.

“We have room in both our Winter and, now Spring, Alternative Breaks,” Chandler said. “We hope to gain a larger community of students who are willing to focus their time off into impacting lives around the country.”

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