Second Reverse Spring Break To Introduce Youthbuild Holyoke Students to UMass Amherst and Strengthen Community Partnership

AMHERST, Mass. - Twelve young adults from Holyoke will spend a few days this week experiencing daily student life at the University of Massachusetts as part of a partnership between Youthbuild Holyoke and UMass/Amherst.

Reverse Spring Break, to be held April 22-24 at UMass, complements the Alternative Spring Break experience that brought six Five-College students-three from UMass and three from Mount Holyoke College-and fifteen Youthbuild Holyoke students together during the week of March 17th to rehabilitate a building on Newton Street in Holyoke for use as affordable housing. Now in its second year, the Reverse Spring Break program will bring the Holyoke students to UMass to attend college classes, participate in cultural events, and gain information about the admissions process and campus life.

Youthbuild Holyoke is a local program of YouthBuild U.S.A, a national, 12 month program that offers job training, education, counseling, and leadership development opportunities to out-of-school young adults ages 16-24. Students in the Holyoke program work as a team to rehabilitate and construct affordable housing in their community while engaging in an academic program to prepare for the Graduate Equivalency Diploma (GED) exam. Program Director Joanne Horak stated, "the opportunities that YouthBuild Holyoke offers young people is experience that is second to none when most of the young people who come through YouthBuild have had every door closed on them. YouthBuild gives young people a chance to get on the right path."

The six Five-College students involved with Reverse Spring Break are enrolled in a UMass Anthropology course entitled ''Community Development in Holyoke.'' In the fall of 2002, two UMass juniors designed the course for students who had already taken ''Grassroots Community Development,'' a student-led Alternative Spring Break class that was started seven years ago at UMass. Like ''Grassroots Community Development,'' ''Community Development in Holyoke'' combines a curriculum about grassroots political organizing, community building, and economic development in poor communities with hands-on community service with a community organization during the UMass spring break week. ''Community Development in Holyoke'' adds the Reverse Spring Break program and allows students to collectively design their curriculum in a completely student-run classroom.

With help from many groups and individuals at UMass, sponsorship by the University Store, and input from Youthbuild students and staff, the six Five-College students have planned an exciting schedule of events for the Reverse Spring Break week. One very excited YouthBuild Holyoke student, Robert Scribner said, "This is a way to inspire me to go to college." UMass student Brian Zbriger is equally excited: "I had a great time helping out in Holyoke and getting to know people there during Spring Break. It will be fun to have Youthbuild students visit us and see our community at UMass."