Teens Trade Beaches for Charity Work During Spring Break

There were no beads, no bikinis but certainly lots of gardening at an Alternative Spring Break event organized by the Center for Civic Engagement.

In a week when many students are hitting the beach to party, others are choosing to stay in Brownsville.

The "alternative" events are gaining the attention of many students within the community who are eager to serve and give back.

This is the Center for Civic Engagement's eighth year of organizing Alternative Spring Break.

On Wednesday morning, 40 students representing the center and other organizations, among them Keep Brownsville Beautiful, Sigma Psi Delta and the university's Aspire Club, joined forces with Rio Bravo Wildlife to plant "learning gardens" at Lincoln Park on University Boulevard.

Rio Bravo Wildlife Program coordinator S. Grady Deaton admired the work of the students.

"I think they're our heroes," he said. "When I see more people volunteering, taking more time out when they could be at the beach, I applaud them. And we couldn't see this project through without the effort of volunteers. I hope they all feel a sense of ownership in this project because it's a Brownsville project. . It's our money. It's our park."

Rio Bravo Wildlife, with the sponsorship of Wal-Mart, is directing several park projects for the Alternative Spring Break volunteers. The Lincoln Park effort is directed at utilizing the nature center and the bird blind built some time ago but not used to their full potential.

Deaton stressed the impact of the volunteers on this particular project.

"Really what we're doing here at this urban ecology center is not reinventing the wheel. It's taking tax dollars and city budget that was spent on something and really continuing to follow that vision," he said. "We're just trying to see that mission all the way through."

Wednesday's event was just one out of three that the Center for Civic Engagement offered students for their service.

Brenda Gallegos, a junior accounting major, was one of those participating.

She said she spent her Tuesday afternoon fellowshipping with the elderly at the Good Samaritan Nursing Home on Paredes Line Road.

The students played bingo and other games with those in the nursing home and created friendships with them.

Gallegos said the event was fun and was a great chance to give back.

On Wednesday, she was busy shoveling away, planting gardens that will benefit both the park and community.

"I really like volunteering," Gallegos said. "Every time I see an e-mail or an opportunity to volunteer, I come. . That's just me. I like to volunteer and contribute to the community."

Gallegos said she knew that most people were at South Padre Island but this week was a chance to do something more with her time.

She challenged other teens saying, "It's their community and they should be active. If they think there's a change that needs to be done, then they should stand up and do something about it."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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