Howard celebrates 30 years of alternative spring break service

The HUASB Philadelphia group touring “Love Park” in the city. Marking 30 years of service in 2024, more than 1,000 Howard students provided service to marginalized communities during their Spring Break. (Photo courtesy of Elijah Pratt)

By Kareema Bangura

Since 1994, Howard University Alternative Spring Break (HUASB) has offered service-learning opportunities in communities from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans. 

This year, celebrating 30 years of service, HUASB sent participating students across 20 states to complete youth empowerment and community engagement service activities over spring break with the support of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel.

.“In our 30th year of service, we are excited to announce that more than 1,400 students have committed to serve this spring break,” said Tyrah Lacy, co-executive student director for HUASB,  during the Call to Chapel on Feb. 25.“This is HUASB at its maximum strength.” 

Before the week-long service initiative, Howard University’s radio station, WHUR, hosted the Helping Hands Radiothon, allowing ASB students to gain support from donations towards transportation, housing and food costs. After the 12-hour fundraiser, ASB students gained more than $52,000 in donations, according to WHUR.

 HUASB participants encouraged donations on Georgia Avenue during the WHUR Helping Hands Radiothon. (Photo courtesy of  Dylssa Bailey)

First-time participant and junior mechanical engineering student Elijah Pratt, who was placed in Philadelphia for the week, shared how humbling the experience was for him and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to be a role model for the young students he worked with.

“We took it upon ourselves to take observatory surveys of what they need to know and what we can help them with to create an itinerary for ourselves,” said Pratt.  

Throughout the day, students were tasked with completing service initiatives that would help prepare youth in their communities for their futures. Activities ranged from SAT prep, resume making, activity engagement and sharing stories of the HBCU experience on Howard’s campus. 

“It’s scary, but it also allowed me to get to know people and share an experience with other people, which I find very intriguing because that is how you build connections,” Pratt said.

HUASB participant Alijah Hitt and after-school children at Barnwell Primary School in South Carolina, presenting their marshmallow towers on their final day together. (Photo courtesy of Alijah Hitt).

Jalen Marcelin, a second-year BS MD scholar, led this year’s D.C. group. As a recurring participant, Marcelin said she encourages college students to get involved in community service initiatives and make lasting connections with those that surround them. 

“After every service trip, we came together and we just sit down and talk about exactly what happened that day and how that impacted us or how it impacted the lives of others,” Marcelin said.

Some participants, such as junior Alijah Hitt, said they saw HUASB as an opportunity to connect with and befriend other students on campus they otherwise would not have met. 

“I gained new friendships and reaffirmed my ability to work well with younger people,” Hitt said. 

Stationed in South Carolina, Hitt, and his other group members worked in middle and high schools, participating in several recreational activities and projects while giving the children insight into the college experience.

“When you foster up a community of individuals that are willing to serve and want to go out, it’s really a great opportunity,” said Hitt. “Not only for the people that the students are going to impact but really, it’s a great opportunity for the students.”