UMass Amherst Reverse Spring Break Strengthens Partnership With Youthbuild of Holyoke

April 22, 2002

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AMHERST, Mass. - Approximately 18-20 young adults from Holyoke, Mass., will spend a few days this week catching a glimpse into the lives of students at the University of Massachusetts as part of the Reverse Spring Break program designed by UMass students to strengthen ties between the two communities.

Reverse Spring Break, to be held April 24-27 at UMass, complements the Alternative Spring Break experience of students who spent a week in Holyoke last month working with young adults there on a project to turn dilapidated buildings into low-income housing. In its second year at UMass, Reverse Spring Break involves members of the community traveling to UMass to live and attend classes with the students who had previously visited them over spring break.

During the week of March 16-24, some UMass students participating in Alternative Spring Break traveled to Holyoke where they lived and worked with members of that city''s chapter of YouthBuild, a national program that offers job training, education, counseling, and leadership development opportunities to unemployed and out-of-school young adults through the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing in their own communities. Other groups of UMass students traveled to three Virginia towns for separate community service projects.

After participating in Alternative Spring Break in Holyoke and later serving as trip leaders, Commonwealth College students Comfort Halsey, a senior, and Meagan Hamilton, a junior, decided to create a spin-off program. Students enroll in the four-credit honors course "The Community Development of Holyoke," offered through Commonwealth College and the anthropology department. Students in the course collectively design both the Alternative Spring Break and Reverse Spring Break programs. Hamilton said, "Reverse Spring Break allows students to apply the knowledge and experience gained during their Alternative Spring Break experience in Holyoke." Halsey added, "It completes the exchange and strengthens the partnership between UMass and Holyoke."

In the upcoming Reverse Spring Break, each UMass student involved will host one to three YouthBuild students in their dorms or off-campus homes. YouthBuild members will attend classes and campus activities, such as cultural events and student organization activities. The group plans to meet for most meals and during the time period when the UMass class normally meets on Thursday afternoon.

The Alternative Spring Break program is one of six coordinated by the UMass Alliance for Community Transformation (UACT), a partnership of students and faculty and members of grassroots community organizations. In addition to Alternative Spring Break and Reverse Spring Break, UACT also organizes alternative summer breaks and alternative service weekends.

For more information, contact Jennifer Kuhr at 413/549-9961 or jkuhr@student.umass.edu.