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PROFILE: UC Student Steps Outside The Comfort Zone On Spring Break

Jody McNanie, along with dozens of other students, will participate in the University of Cincinnati’s Alternative Spring Break, March 21-25.

Date: 3/14/2005 8:00:00 AM
By: Jacob Dirr
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Other Contact: Dawn Fuller
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre and Center for Community Engagement
UC ingot Jody McNanie finds that it is hard to relate her personal Alternative Spring Break (ASB) feelings through words.  Stepping outside of the comfort bubble to help someone and into a life that is completely alien from your own is a life changing experience, she says.

Jodie McNanie and William Harris
Jodie McNanie and Center for Community Engagement Director William Harris on location on a previous Alternative Spring Break

“Just knowing that you tried to make a difference in somebody’s life is worth more than anything else, especially when compared to going to party on spring break,” the University of Cincinnati anthropology student says.

The Alternative Spring Break gives students an alternative option to the typical spring break party atmosphere. The objective is to provide students with the opportunity to engage in week-long service projects at various communities and broaden their understanding of different cultures.

“The trips are important because it helps the students put service in the international perspective,” says Will Harris, director of UC’s Center for Community Engagement.
On March 18, McNanie will travel to Reynosa, Mexico, crossing the border for the third time, along with 13 others from the UC Center for Community Engagement – one of seven groups organizing ASB trips this year.

On location on a previous Alternative Spring Break

“The experience is priceless. It’s just something that helps me grow as a person and lets me know I’m making a difference,” McNanie says.  “I like to get out of my comfort zone and I’m really excited to practice my Spanish.”

McNanie and the others have gathered $500 each to pay for transportation and supplies.  The plan is to fly into Texas, buy construction supplies, then head to their final destination where the students will get to work.
 “There’s not a lack of workers, just a lack of supplies,” McNanie says, “I think that’s where we really help.”

Taking a brief break on campus

McNanie acquired about half of the funds for the trip this year from various student organizations and campus offices, while the remaining $250 is coming out of her own pocket. “It dents my checkbook a little bit, but it’s worth it,” she says.  “There is not really a price you can put on what you are doing there and the experience you get.”

Since the students keep running out of supplies while there is still more to be done, McNanie and her fellow students have raised an additional $100 every year since she first volunteered.

In 2002, McNanie went to the fishing town of Carboneras, Mexico, just south of the border, on her first Alternative Spring Break.  “I didn’t know what I was in for,” she recalls. “Nothing can prepare you for the first time.  You realize how lucky you are and how much you have.”

McNanie remembers how she wished she was a doctor after overjoyed residents mistook the students for medical workers, because no Americans had ever visited the region other than to administer medical aid.

“We were the first young students who came to help build stuff. All the others who had came down were doctors and nurses,” McNanie says.

The delegation interacted with local residents on daily basis, working and eating with kids and adults alike. “It’s easier to talk to kids. It’s like you are on the same level of Spanish,” McNanie says. “My biggest obstacle was not to try and give them everything off my back.”

The following year, the students drove 18 hours along the eastern Mexican coast to the city of Tuxpan. Doing much of the same type of construction work that she did in Carboneras, their Tuxpan hosts found time to take them to an ancient Mayan pyramid.  The trip was especially exciting for McNanie, who has a keen interest in the regional history of Mexico.

Now that she has two different trips under her belt, McNanie looks forward to sharing some of her accumulated wisdom with first-time students this year.“I know it can be kind of overwhelming, it’s just such a difference from what we are used to,” she says.

Despite a student’s creed or prior experiences, McNanie recommends the Alternative Spring Break for anyone. “If anything, do it to step outside of the box,” she says, “to challenge yourself and breakthrough any stereotypes.”

Read About Other UC Trips Planned For Spring Break

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