John Tolley, March 28, 2017

This spring break, 12 teams of Hawkeyes got out of Iowa City, but not to revel in the sun or cruise the Caribbean. They embarked on an ?alternative spring break? consisting of community service projects across the U.S.

From Milwaukee to Atlanta, Denver to Dallas, Hawkeye Service Teams helped package medical supplies, serve meals, pack lunches and shovel mulch for a variety of organizations in an effort to help students engage with issues of social justice and service learning. It?s something that speaks to the university?s core values , says Charlotte Brown, coordinator for leadership and service programs in the UI?s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.

?The program gives students the opportunity to live out the mission of this institution and fulfill the expectations of the IOWA Challenge, and it offers them a hands-on learning experience where they can see and do something much larger than themselves,? Brown says, speaking to Iowa Now. ?I think we?re seeing growth because students are sharing their positive experiences with others and encouraging more participation.?

Started in 2013 with one team of 16 students, the program has been marked by almost exponential growth. This year 200 students were selected – from a pool of 350 applicants - to participate. The students receive credit for a spring semester course through which they expand upon their experience.

It?s an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone that leaves a lasting legacy, says Ben Ross, who, in 2016, was part of a team working in Detroit.

?I had been there before and had seen the intense social inequities. I was curious about why that was, so I went there for alternative spring break,? says Ross. ?We worked with food banks, homeless shelters, educational nonprofits, and more. It provided an extremely holistic picture of the wide variety of issues that any community faces, but especially Detroit.?

Now back home, this year?s crop of Hawkeye Service Teams will be offering presentations covering their respective missions in the Learning Commons of the UI Main Library from 5:30 to 7:30 PM April 3rd. Admission is free and open to the public.