Northeastern’s annual Alter­na­tive Spring Break pro­grams pro­vide stu­dents the oppor­tu­nity to get out of their com­fort zones by vol­un­teering in far-​​flung parts of the world. Though they’re expected to work long, hard hours, the expe­ri­ences they gain and the friend­ships they forge are more than worth the sac­ri­fices they make.

In fact, stu­dents such as Nicole Ciulla, SSH’14, describe ASB as one of the most valu­able expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties North­eastern offers. Cuilla, who will grad­uate in May with a crim­inal jus­tice degree, wants the entire com­mu­nity to know that it’s never too late to par­tic­i­pate in an ASB trip.

This year, she was one of 175 stu­dents who par­tic­i­pated in com­mu­nity ser­vice projects across the U.S. and in four other coun­tries. Their work ranged from caring from home­less ani­mals in Utah to building clean water infra­struc­ture in Ecuador.

Not only was I able to help others through ser­vice, which I love doing, but I was able to learn a lot about myself. In fact, being older allowed me to appre­ciate and expe­ri­ence the trip dif­fer­ently,” Ciulla said. “It has influ­enced the types of jobs I would enjoy and the type of life I want to live. I feel the rewards I gained from the expe­ri­ence will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

She was one of 11 stu­dents who vol­un­teered at the Peace­able Kingdom Retreat for Chil­dren, a Killeen, Texas-​​based orga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides fun day camp expe­ri­ences for kids with spe­cial needs. The orga­ni­za­tion was estab­lished in 1984 as a fishing day retreat for chron­i­cally ill chil­dren. Today, it offers week­long summer retreats for more than 5,000 chil­dren with chronic ill­nesses, their fam­i­lies, and their treat­ment providers. The orga­ni­za­tion serves chil­dren and adults ages 2–22 with med­ical con­di­tions including autism, blind­ness, cancer, cere­bral palsy, neu­ro­log­ical dis­or­ders, and asthma.

2014 marked the sev­enth year that North­eastern vol­un­teers have worked with PKRC. They helped by assisting classes and retreats; gar­dening, cleaning, and land­scaping the prop­erty; and pitching in to help with other on-​​site projects aimed at enhancing retreat pro­grams and beau­ti­fying the grounds.

  • Northeastern University students and campers at the Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children.

  • Northeastern University students played a game with campers.

  • Northeastern University students played a game with campers.

  • Melissa Jacques, COS '17, spots a camper as he makes his way across "Mission Impossible," a low-ropes course.

  • From right to left, Melissa Jacques, COS '17, Brittany Moulden, CSSH '16, and Elizabeth Howland, BHS '18, work on a group project.

  • Northeastern University students cleaned up a plot of land on the Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children property.

  • Melissa Jacques, COS '17, puts finishing touches on a group project.

  • The eleven Northeastern University students together.

Stu­dents who worked at the day camp saw ASB as an oppor­tu­nity to forge a career path. Melissa Jacques, S’17, plans to attend grad­uate school to become a school psy­chol­o­gist, but first wanted to expe­ri­ence working directly with chil­dren with devel­op­mental dis­abil­i­ties. From vol­un­teering with PKRC, she learned just how inspiring this pop­u­la­tion is and is excited to expand on the expe­ri­ence through her career.

I knew that I had to test out if I could work with kids with spe­cial needs and I decided Peace­able Kingdom would be my test,” Jacques explained. “I ended up loving it more than I thought I would. I wit­nessed kids who couldn’t say a word walk on low-​​ropes courses with fear in their eyes, but they pushed through. I learned from that I could not only do this, but that I absolutely want to.”