Florida-​​bound Lindsay Weigel and David Barra will spend a lot of time in the sun over spring break next week, but they’re not heading south for the tan.

Instead, they will be removing inva­sive plant species, cleaning up trash in Bis­cayne National Park, and keeping their dis­tance from unwel­come Burmese pythons in the sub­trop­ical wilder­ness of the Everglades.

Weigel and Barra, third-​​year health sci­ences and biology majors, respec­tively, are leaders on one of the Alter­na­tive Spring Break program’s 15 ser­vice projects—10 domestic and five inter­na­tional. For 180 North­eastern vol­un­teers, the annual pro­gram pro­vides a chance to spend a week in loca­tions across the nation and around the world addressing impor­tant social issues and exploring the cul­ture and his­tory of these communities.

Each com­mu­nity partner pro­vides such unique, inten­sive, and trans­for­ma­tive ser­vice expe­ri­ences that we always attract a great mix­ture of new and returning stu­dents,” said Kristen Doggett, director of the Center of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice, which runs the ASB program.

This year’s projects include camping at the Grand Canyon to com­plete projects aimed at ensuring the nat­ural landmark’s longevity; tending to ani­mals in need at a sanc­tuary in Utah; improving low-​​income homes in Louisiana; tutoring orphaned chil­dren in the Dominican Republic; learning about social jus­tice issues first­hand at the U.S.-Mexico border; and helping to pre­serve the rain­forest in Puerto Rico.

Northeastern’s ASB pro­gram has expe­ri­enced tremen­dous growth since its incep­tion in 2003, when it offered only one project. Over the last decade, the pro­gram has devel­oped many new rela­tion­ships with com­mu­ni­ties and orga­ni­za­tions around the globe, including Tan­dana Foun­da­tion in Ecuador, where stu­dents return year after year. Others, like its rela­tion­ship with the Sloth Sanc­tuary in Costa Rica, are new this year.

And the stu­dents keep coming back for more.

It’s rewarding each year to find out how many stu­dents’ expe­ri­ences were so mean­ingful that they have returned to become a trip leader in order to ensure their peers expe­ri­ences are equally pow­erful,” Doggett said.

Each project is spear­headed by two stu­dent leaders, like Wiegel and Barra, who have under­gone rig­orous training to lead their group of 10 vol­un­teers. The leaders plan the project, coor­di­nate with site hosts, arrange pre­trip meet­ings, and facil­i­tate group bonding ahead of the year­long program’s cul­mi­na­tion on spring break.

This year marks the first for Barra both as an ASB par­tic­i­pant and a trip leader.

It has a spe­cial meaning to me because I believe spending your spring break vol­un­teering says a lot about you as a person—that you’re open to trying new expe­ri­ences, seeing what else is out there in the world, get­ting out of your com­fort zone, and making an impact in a com­mu­nity other than your own,” he said.

Check back after spring break to learn more about ASB through the Ever­glades expe­ri­ence. Casey Bayer will be vol­un­teering with Lindsay and David as the group’s uni­ver­sity rep­re­sen­ta­tive and as an “embedded” reporter of sorts for news@Northeastern.