Sacramento State students volunteer vacation time to give back to the community

The wind and rain haven’t deterred Sacramento State students from donating their vacation time to give back to the community as part of the annual Alternative Spring Break.

More than 30 students registered for the March 20-24 event organized by the Community Engagement Center (CEC).

When it’s not raining, they’ve picked up trash in the Meadowview neighborhood, built fences and filled walkways in the tiny home community of Safe Harbor, and prepared the Sac State garden behind the Capital Public Radio building for spring planting.

“I love helping the community,” says graduate student Rebekah Williams, who works in the garden. “I think everyone here really cares about community service, because we’re all students and it’s our spring break. We don’t have much time to relax, but everyone here wants to work.

A woman, outdoors, wearing a green shirt and gardening gloves, works in the garden
Sac State Psychology Student Aaliyah Porter works in the campus garden during Alternate Spring Break. (State of Sacramento/Bibiana Ortiz)

“It’s amazing to see the passion these students have for society.”

Sacramento State students have given up their vacations to participate in Alternate Spring Break since 2007.

“Not every student has the means to take a break over spring break, so if they are still in town, we want to give them the opportunity to get involved,” says CEC Branch Program Specialist and Volunteer Sherell.

Many students want to participate in community service, but between school and work, they don’t have time.

“Alternate Spring Break is a great time to get out into the community and do something good, maybe get their families involved and get to know some of the great organizations that are out there,” says Branch.

Environmental Studies students assist with an ongoing project to clean up the corners of Munson Way and Meadowgate Drive in Meadowview.

“This is an area of ​​the city of Sacramento that is heavily impacted by litter and illegal dumping,” said Professor of Environmental Studies Christine Flowers.

Through a grant from the organization Keep California Beautiful, Flowers and her students have been working with the city of Sacramento and Luther Burbank High School since 2021 to conduct quarterly cleanups and collect waste data to analyze the amount and type of waste dumped in the area.

On March 23, they participated in Clean California Community Days, part of an initiative to clean up the environment, create jobs, and beautify the state. Governor Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Kings players attended the event.

“We have a lot of students at Sac State who went to Luther Burbank, so there’s a connection,” Flowers said. “These students want to improve their own community, and they want community members to know they care.”

Students work in the campus gardens, co-managed by the Sustainability and Facility Management offices, assisting with composting, building birdhouses and preparing beds for spring planting.

Organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs harvested from the garden are sent to Associated Students Inc. Food Pantry, which provides free food and basic necessities to students with financial difficulties and low food security.

“I didn’t even know this park was back here,” said business student Tania Arriaga. “Alternative Spring Break is a great opportunity for us as students to learn more about some of what the campus has to offer.

“It’s also a great way to do something different. During the semester, we were always in front of the computer, and it was very sedentary. I just wanted to go out and try something new.”

Despite the wind and cold, Sac State students are also helping tidy up Safe Harbor, a small home community that provides makeshift housing for families, by building fences in gardens, hanging ceiling fans in gazebos, building outdoor benches, and more.

“They came here with open hearts and ready to work, and they took us further towards our goals,” said Robin Moore, founder and chief executive of California Inc.’s WEForce. “We are happy to see them.”

Four people posing, outdoors, with the Sacramento Kings Slamson mascots, making "sting" hand movements
Sacramento Kings mascot Slamson poses with (from left) Sac State Environmental Studies Lecturer Christine Flowers and Environmental Studies student Trevon Stewart, Melody Miller, and Nicole Brint in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood, one of several locations where students volunteer during Alternative Spring Break. (Photo courtesy of Christine Flowers)

About Jennifer K. Morita

Jennifer K. Morita joined Sacramento State in 2022. A former newspaper reporter for the Sacramento Bee, she spent several years juggling freelance writing with becoming a mother. When she’s not driving her two daughters, she enjoys reading mysteries, experimenting with recipes, and Zumba.

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