A break to help the broken: N.J. college students devote vacation to Sandy recovery
March 13, 2013By Kevin McCorry
When it comes to infrastructure, the power grid, and the state's emergency preparedness, many are hoping the old way of thinking goes the way of the Seaside Heights roller coaster. Practically gone, but standing as a reminder of how merciless nature can be.
Now, Sandy is changing the way some college students think about something they've long held dear — spring break.
For many college students, spring break is synonymous with alcohol, sex and excess. Lots of sun, fun and relaxing to the max.
Not so much for a group of about 40 students from The College of New Jersey.
For them, spring break has been a lot more hammer than hammock.
Instead of taking off to, say, sunny Cancun, these students chose to stay in New Jersey to help repair the coastal damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
While other classmates may be partying it up in beachfront hotels, these students are spending the week sleeping on cots at the National Guard training center in Sea Girt.
One of their main projects this week is to help year-round residents whose primary homes were destroyed by the storm. On Tuesday, the students were in Keansburg, N.J., working on a house sitting about a mile from the ocean.
"Students have been really eager to help and they've wanted to get involved, and it's been a really great experience, everyone banding together," said Stephanie Kraver, recent TCNJ graduate and current AmeriCorps VISTA member. Kraver has been organizing the week's service projects through TCNJ's "Here for Home" campaign.
TCNJ will continue volunteer efforts
Typically, Christina Kopka serves TCNJ as senior class president, but this week she's serving her state by wielding a crowbar.
"So many people lost their homes. So many people lost their whole livelihoods," said Kopka of Pittston, N.J.
"I just didn't feel it would be right for me to, you know, go down somewhere else and celebrate when there were still people struggling to recover," she said.
Nutley's Shaun Field shares that sentiment. A longtime volunteer with Habitat For Humanity, to him, service is what spring break is all about.
"This is the kind of stuff I really enjoy doing," said Field. "I wouldn't think of any better way to send a spring break."
Even after school gets back in session, TCNJ will be organizing bus trips to help with Sandy recovery efforts every weekend until the end of the semester.