United Way advances the common good by creating opportunities for a better life for all focusing on education, income and health, the building blocks for a good quality of life. We really are creating a better life for all. Not only can we help communities with their toughest challenges, but the fun we have along the way and the meaningful lessons we learn make it worthwhile for all. Nowhere does this seem to be more evident than during United Way Alternative Spring Break.
All month, the United Way Alternative Spring Break (ASB) takes place across the country with students committing their time and effort to make an impact in communities. Beginning almost six years ago, after Hurricane Katrina, students have given up their spring break in order to make a difference in the lives of others. What many students don’t realize until they arrive is the impact it will have on their own lives.
Brian Mezzi, never knew much about United Way until participating in ASB last year. Before his trip down to South Mississippi he was going through a rough time in his life and had lost a few close friends. But once he got down to Biloxi, met the people, and heard their stories, it really put things into perspective for him. It made him think about true priorities, “I thought that I had lost a lot, but they really know what it means to have nothing.”
This trip to Biloxi and realization was not the end of Brian’s transformation. After hearing about the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, Brian wasted no time. He persuaded his friends, and together they headed straight for South Mississippi to lend their hands. They teamed up with United Way of South Mississippi and worked on multiple projects from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, to helping families still displaced from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita get back into homes. Brian is stepping up again, as a team leader at this year’s ASB and is back down in Mississippi with his sleeves rolled once again.
Brian’s not the only one. Many students over the years have made the commitment to volunteer long past their break, and some are making a career of it. Stephen Christie, a multi-year ASB alum is now working at United Way of South Mississippi and helping lead efforts on this year’s United Way Alternative Spring Break. He too credits United Way ASB with showing him the powerful impact that dedicated people can make through volunteering.
Brian and Stephen are two individuals, but they represent the many more that have learned the value of volunteering through Alternative Spring Break. In fact, the ASB students working in South Mississippi have developed a fitting mantra for their spring break this year, courtesy of a past participant, Tom Wille, “We did not give up our spring break, we took advantage of it.”
Check back soon for more from our friends in South Mississippi and across the country as they work on community issues, advance the work of United Way, and grow and learn a lot about themselves.