Working with abused and neglected chil­dren in Mis­sis­sippi might not come imme­di­ately to mind when col­lege stu­dents dream of spring break. But for sopho­more Sarah Lucey, it was “rewarding — incred­ibly rewarding.”

Lucey was one of 154 stu­dents who spent the week working on projects across the country, as well as in the Caribbean and South America, as part of Northeastern’s Alter­na­tive Spring Break (ASB). The groups, each accom­pa­nied by a Uni­ver­sity staff member, worked to ame­lio­rate prob­lems related to the envi­ron­ment, poverty, housing, chil­dren or animal treatment.

Sara De Ritter, asso­ciate director at Northeastern’s Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, noted that the Uni­ver­sity con­siders ASB a great expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity and has spon­sored itfor sev­eral years, but “this was def­i­nitely our largest ever.”

Increas­ingly, she said, “stu­dents are arriving at North­eastern with a sense of com­mit­ment to ser­vice. Pro­grams like ASB allow them to con­tinue and deepen that involvement.”

The Uni­ver­sity arranged 14 projects this year, working with a national orga­ni­za­tion that main­tains a data­base of non­profit groups seeking help. Stu­dents apply to join an ASB trip and then raise funds to cover the costs of their travel and lodging.

Lucey, who is majoring in human ser­vices with a minor in inter­na­tional affairs, said working at the Mis­sis­sippi Children’s Home in Natchez had a pro­found per­sonal impact on her and her peers. “These kids had such hard lives, and they’re so small, but they made us so happy,” she said.

She also dis­cov­ered syn­er­gies with her aca­d­emic pur­suits. “I had never worked with chil­dren before, and as a human ser­vices major I was curious to see how I would work in that capacity,” she said.

Sara Hamilton, assis­tant director of the Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, joined a group of stu­dents in Lucedale, Mis­sis­sippi, building houses with Habitat for Humanity. “We con­structed a roof, built a porch, painted a home and put up vinyl siding,” she said. One of the new homes, she said, will enable a mother with seven chil­dren to move out of their over­crowded trailer.

De Ritter accom­pa­nied a group that worked in habitat restora­tion and removal of inva­sive plants in California’s Bay Area. Other ASB groups went to Ari­zona, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Wash­ington, D.C., Jamaica, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

The Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, which orga­nizes ASB, con­nects North­eastern stu­dents with more than 200 com­mu­nity part­ners throughout the year on projects in the region, and also hosts two annual ser­vice days for stu­dents to join quick-​​impact projects in the Boston area.