Making a Difference: Alternative Spring Break at the Jersey Shore
By Charles Schelle
While some students work on a perfect tan for spring break, others, like Jamal Bullock, work to make a difference.
The senior mass communication major spent his spring break volunteering with about 40 Frostburg students and staff to help continue relief efforts in New Jersey from 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.
Bullock struggled to express what he had experienced because he saw how much it meant to the people he helped.
FSU students Essence Moseley, left, and Jamal Bullock, center, are joined by University of Wisconsin student Sophie Singleton to install drywall.
“This one felt different,” said Bullock, a Baltimore County resident who graduated from Lansdowne High School. “I think because I had never done something like that before.”
Bullock has volunteered to clean up Frostburg through Beautify the Burg and raised money to fight cancer at Relay For Life, but in New Jersey, he came face to face with why he was working through a cold drizzle in the Mid-Atlantic. Her name was Hedy Falcetta, a local resident who hadn’t been able to live in her own home for more than a year, yet would take the time to bring donuts and an ice cream cake to feed the army of volunteers.
These FSU students, who included members of the University-sponsored AmeriCorps program ECHOSTARS, partnered with the United Way and the nonprofit Break a Difference in various communities in New Jersey, including Wall Township and towns in Ocean County.
The annual trips are organized by FSU’s Office of Civic Engagement and supported this year by a grant from the Catherine R. Gira Campus to Community Fund through the FSU Foundation. This is the second year an Alternative Spring Break trip has helped residents of New Jersey. For the previous eight years, volunteers worked in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina relief. Students must apply each year to be included on the trip.
“Alternative Spring Break allows students to get out of their normal social circles,” said Patrick O’Brien, director of Civic Engagement at Frostburg. “You get to meet a lot of students you normally would not meet when you’re on campus, and it’s really just a group of students with a common cause.”
“Yeah, it’s fun going to the beach and having a good time, but you can only do that so many times,” Bullock said. “It’s not just work, but you’re going to meet new people. I met people I didn’t know went to my school.”
Three years after Superstorm Sandy, communities along the Jersey Shore are still trying to get back to normal, many still waiting to have their homes repaired or raised on a higher foundation to meet new flood insurance standards. That’s where these students come in.
Bullock and his compatriots rose at 7 a.m. each day and drove an hour to the worksite to swing hammers, shoot nail guns and run saws to rebuild not just homes, but lives. Bullock’s main station was working drywall at a home in Ocean County, but he also painted and helped lay a new foundation at other sites.
Bullock plans to include his time with Falcetta and the Alternative Spring Break crew in a 15-minute documentary he’s making for his MCOM 487 Advanced Video Production class.
The aspiring filmmaker encouraged his fellow students to reconsider a traditional spring break for one that has a positive impact on others.
“I see myself as helpful, and I like people, but it hit me because we all go through things and we all have difficulties,” Bullock said. “If the tables were turned, I would want someone to help me the way I helped her. Overall, we have to help each other.”
For information about Alternative Spring Break or other volunteer opportunities at FSU, contact the Office of Civic Engagement at 301-687-4210 or visit www.frostburg.edu/sci/civic-engagement.