While communities across the nation are still facing the implications of COVID-19 one year later, the nonprofit sector needs support now more than ever. Forty-six high school students in Sarasota dedicated 425 service hours to nine different nonprofit partners and community sites through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties’ 7th annual Alternative Spring Break, March 15 to 19.
“Alternative Spring Break gives our high school students a sense of ownership in their community,” said Caroline Nigro, Teen Program Director at Boys & Girls Clubs. “They get to learn about our area’s key resources, give back and see how they can help our partners save time, save energy and focus more on better serving their clients during this time of great need.”
Each year, the organization invites all local high school students to sign up for this free opportunity to connect with meaningful causes. This year, the participants had the chance to build their resume, network with a diverse group of professionals and earn up to 22 community service hours.
“I was fortunate enough to interact with students from a multitude of schools and learn from impactful leaders in the community who are making a difference,” said Quinn O., a 17-year-old junior at Sarasota High School.
The program was designed with the participants’ safety as the top priority and to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Alternative Spring Break presented me with the unique opportunity to help my community while adhering to all health and safety guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Quinn.
Examples of the heightened safety efforts included reimaging service work through small-group gatherings, masks, social distancing, hand-sanitizing stations and more.
“In this new world of quarantining during the pandemic, we often times forget that we can still contribute to our community in safe and precautious ways,” said Jorge H., a 17-year-old senior at Riverview High School and 2021 Youth of the Year. “Boys & Girls Clubs once again proves that community engagement and volunteerism are not mutually exclusive to safety during the age of COVID-19.”
Volunteer projects included building a compost bin for Boys & Girls Clubs to increase its sustainability efforts; cleaning up beaches and parks with Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources; sorting and distributing meals to families with All Faiths Food Bank; engaging in intergenerational conversations with senior citizens at Senior Friendship Centers; making animal beds and toys for Cat Depot; spreading positivity with letters to residents at The Pines of Sarasota; conducting virtual research on bay-related issues for Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium; creating informational folders for SPARCC’s hospital response team; and more.
“Alternative Spring Break not only gave me the opportunity to contribute back to my community through several service initiatives, but it highlighted the importance of civic engagement,” said Jorge. “My peers and I enjoyed giving back during this spring break and I am sure many will come back for more of these enriching opportunities next year!”
For more information about Alternative Spring Break, visit theclubsdc.org or call 941-366-3911.