My Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans – A Rewarding and Unforgettable Experience

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

By Tim Inthavong*

My fellow CU volunteers and I while working with Common Ground Relief

There are significant moments that change a person’s life and how they view the world, and my Alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans was an unforgettable experience that I will remember forever. I am truly grateful to the Casey Feldman Foundation for funding my trip with a scholarship stipend which enabled me to volunteer to help a community and environment in need.

At the outset, my fellow volunteer students and I from the University of Colorado Boulder worked with the nonprofit, Common Ground Relief  headquartered in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Founded initially in 2005 to provide disaster relief following Hurricane Katrina, Common Ground has since revised it’s mission to reflect a forward-looking focus to restore and preserve Louisiana’s disappearing coastal wetlands. Wetlands are crucial to prevent flooding since they hold water much like a sponge, helping to keep river waters normal, and slowly releasing water when levels are low. In addition to many other benefits, the wetlands provide a habitat for a diverse group of wildlife.

After being introduced to the environmental issues affecting the Lower Ninth Ward community due to Hurricane Katrina, our group worked at a plant nursery where we watered and removed weeds from bull grasses that would be used to restore the wetlands. My favorite and most rewarding  experience was then actually planting the bull grasses onto the wetland floor.

In the wetlands where we worked to plant bull grasses

At first, I felt uncomfortable and was in fact, very nervous to physically plant them. I worried about the difficulty in moving through all of the thick algae and the uncertainty as to how deep I was swimming. I continued however, and planted the grasses. I felt great satisfaction afterwards in knowing that I had contributed to helping to restore the wetlands and mitigate the effects of a future hurricane on the people of New Orleans. The experience had another strong impact on me as well, in that it served as a learning opportunity.  I realized that it’s okay to be scared in a new and uncomfortable situation and that by proceeding in the face of it, I can conquer that fear.

My group also performed volunteer work at Crevasse 22, an indoor and outdoor art exhibit with an ecological theme.  It sits in a natural area of forests and marshes and contains a deep lake, created by a crevasse, or breach in the levee in 1922.  It is steps away from the Mississippi River and borders St. Bernard State Park. Our work there was to uproot and get rid of  invasive plants damaging the natural habitat of wildlife. This service that was done was the most difficult, but it was extremely rewarding to know that our work was supporting a safe environment for animals to live and grow their population. I thought of Casey Feldman and her love of animals and how my work there was made possible through the Foundation established in her memory. It was deeply gratifying knowing that I was honoring and continuing her legacy.

My Alternative Spring Break trip also afforded me the opportunity to create and build new relationships.  My group and I traveled together in a van for 40 hours round-trip from Boulder, Colorado and lived and worked together the entire week. I did not know any of my fellow volunteers when the trip began, but, by the end of the week, I had 15 close friends  –  David Ruin, Julia Book, Tyler Ennis, Danya Arie, Diantha McAllister, Elise Warnock, Emma Blanken, Feben Kassahun, Hiba Abdali, Jose Canizares, Julia Smith, Maggie Hearn, Marissa Kelly, Mohammed, Pujan Tandukar, Vladimir Brizuela. Without them, the service week would not have been as enriching an experience.

I came into this trip far from my community in Westminster, Colorado not knowing much about the environmental issues facing the people of New Orleans and it’s wildlife habitat. But, by at the end of the week, I had gained so much knowledge about the issues facing the people of Louisiana 12 years after Hurricane Katrina’s devastation.

As I get older and look back at this trip, I can say “I really made in impact on others.”  It makes me smile to know that I made a difference through an experience that I was able to share with others. Above the clouds, I picture Casey Feldman smiling too.

On the site of Crevasse 22 where we worked to remove invasive species

In the forest at Crevasse 22

 

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*Tim Inthavong just completed his junior year at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is studying economics and business and would like to work  for a hospital as a health administrator after graduating. He is one of five children of a single refugee mother whom he has worked to support in and around his studies and volunteer work.

Immigrant Scholarship Recipient Hopes to Pursue a Medical Career

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

By Morgan Steward*

 

Our Alternative Spring Break Scholarship recipient, Gabriela Solano Serna has had to overcome many challenges in her young life. Emigrating from Mexico at age 10, Gabriela and her family left behind everything in order to start a new life in the United States. Unable to receive any government aid, including food stamps, medical care or scholarships through FAFSA, Gabriela and her family have struggled to make ends meet. But, instead of discouraging Gabriela, it has motivated her to volunteer in her community to make a difference for those facing hardships like her family.

The Casey Feldman Foundation scholarship stipend enabled Gabriela to travel to Atlanta last year over her spring break to work with the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC). The alternative spring break trip was one of many organized by the Volunteer Resource Center at the University of Colorado Boulder where Gabriela is a student. The AHRC  works to build relationships with individuals who are either suffering from or in danger of contracting HIV/AIDS, STD’s and Hepatitis Viruses and is the only comprehensive harm reduction program in the entire state of Georgia.

During her week in Atlanta, Gabriela did a lot of hands-on work with the coalition in underprivileged communities and visited the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn about the long-term benefits of the work she just participated in. One activity in particular stood out to Gabriela—a needle exchange. A needle exchange is a program that provides drug users with clean needles to prevent them from sharing and re-using contaminated needles, thus drastically lowering the chance of spreading diseases like HIV and AIDS.

“We helped distribute and make safety packs, which [are handed out] to individuals during the needle exchange in a poor community known as the ‘Bluff,’” Gabriela explained.  “After visiting and interacting with individuals from this neighborhood, I was able to see the unprivileged side of the community and learn how the state plays a role in helping the community.”

“I would say that this opportunity helped me—it was definitely an eye opener, but [also] a motivation to pursue a career in the medical field,” Gabriela explained. She hopes to use her talents to become an Obstetrician Gynecologist to honor her sister who passed away in Mexico due to the lack of medical attention.

So what does this remarkable scholarship recipient hope to accomplish in the future? “I am passionate about providing medical care to those in the US that struggle every day to sustain families and who do not have as much access to adequate medical assistance, public benefits (like Medicare) or health care insurance as other privileged groups do,” Gabriela said. As an undocumented immigrant herself, Gabriela’s future plans also include opening a clinic to provide medical assistance, regardless of the patients’ immigration status.

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morga -steward*Morgan Steward is a sophomore Communication and Media Studies student at Fordham University at Lincoln Center (Casey’s alma mater). Born in Beaumont, TX, she to moved to New York City to pursue a career in the media. She is the Arts & Culture Co-Editor of The Observer, Fordham’s student newspaper (where Casey was the News Editor).

The Faces of our 2018 Alternative Spring Break Scholarship Recipients

Friday, March 30th, 2018

By Dianne Anderson*

Spring break is underway at many colleges in the nation. Our University of Colorado Boulder scholarship recipients are off on their Alternative Spring Break – volunteering in various parts of the U.S., with funding made possible through the Casey Feldman Foundation. Take a look at these outstanding young people.

Jaela Zellers

Jaela Zellers – Jaela is a junior majoring in integrative physiology with a double minor in Spanish and women and gender studies, with the hopes of becoming a physician.  A native of Georgia, Jaela has consistently worked 3-4 part-time jobs while taking 18 credit hours per semester. Despite her own hardships at home, sometimes not knowing where her next meal would come from, Jaela has managed to help others through filling boxes of food for the needy or helping build a home through Habitat for Humanity. Zaela works at the Volunteer Resource Center on campus and is currently organizing a service project focused on women’s empowerment for the Better Boulder Day of Service. Jaela’s Alternative Spring Break is in environmental conservation where she is working to protect the habitat and build trails on Catalina Island, CA.

Nicole Fernandez-Perez

 

Nicole Fernandez-Perez – Nicole is a senior and a first generation college student majoring in psychology and minoring in ethnic studies. She currently works with Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) in Boulder where she supports survivors of domestic violence. Nicole is also a part of Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority Inc.,  where she works to preserve Latina culture in the Latino communities near the CU campus. Nicole is participating in the Disability Advocacy Spring Break Trip in Springfield, Missouri where she is working with a non-profit that focuses on building self-esteem, self confidence and social skills in children and adults with disabilities through education, sports training and competition.

 

Jose “Santos” Navarro

Jose “Santos” Navarro –  Santos, a first-generation American, is a freshman majoring in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology with ultimate hopes of working one day in the Astrobiology Institute at  NASA. Throughout high school, Santos was an outdoor counselor who helped at-risk 5th graders from schools in troubled areas. Often, his biggest responsibility there was to simply be a source of support for the children by listening and hearing their stories. Santos’ Alternative Spring Break has taken him to Houston, TX where he is working in disaster relief, helping to rebuild homes and the community in the aftermath of the devastating hurricane which occurred last year. In looking forward to his week in Houston, Santos stated, “I can’t wait to represent CU Boulder and carry on the values of service through our actions.”

Tim Inthavong

Tim Inthavong –  Tim is a junior studying economics and business and hopes to work one day for a hospital as a health administrator. Tim is the child of a single refugee mother with four siblings and has always worked to help support his family. Despite this, Tim has found time to volunteer in and around his work and studies. Whether working with low income communities by teaching youth about the sciences, or volunteering on Saturdays at the Have A Heart food and clothing bank, Tim feels best when he can be of service to others. Tim’s Alternative Spring Break is taking place in New Orleans, LA where he is helping to rebuild homes for the needy. As he was leaving for the trip, Tim said, “I can’t wait to make a difference!”

 

Thank you Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Scholarship recipients for making a difference in the lives of others! We look forward to hearing about your service work upon the completion of your trips!

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Dianne and Casey, Christmas 2006

 

*Dianne Anderson  is the mother of the late Casey Feldman and co-founder of The Casey Feldman Foundation.

Casey Feldman Foundation Proud of Scholarship Recipient, Alejandra Pedraza

Monday, October 30th, 2017

By Dianne Anderson*

Alejandra Pedraza  is a shining example of the kind of student that the Casey Feldman Foundation is proud to support through its Alternative Spring Break Scholarship program. This first generation college student and junior at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) was born in the United States by an immigrant mother who crossed the border from Mexico with Pedraza’s older sister in arms. According to Alejandra, “being born in this country is one of the greatest gifts that I have ever received.” Majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology as well as environmental studies, Alejandra hopes to one day become an environmental lawyer to protect the environment and advocate for people who are disproportionately impacted by unsound environmental practices.

“Being in college is a great privilege” and “one of the hardest and most fulfilling endeavors of my life,” says Pedraza, who takes immense pride in being the first in family to attend college and sees herself as a role model for her younger sister.“I make the most out of every day by constantly learning and participating in events and activities,” she adds.

A Daniels Scholar as the result of her exceptional character, leadership, and community service, Pedraza is grateful for the payment of her college tuition and fees. With no other financial support, she has worked throughout college to pay her living expenses and to send money to her hard working mother, who struggles to make ends meet. This leaves virtually no funding for the many extra programs, activities and leadership opportunities that she would like to participate in, something often taken for granted by other students.

One of these is the Alternative Breaks, a program of the Volunteer Resource Center at CU, which sends teams of college students to engage in community-based service projects during each college break, providing opportunities for students to learn about the problems faced by members of communities with whom they may otherwise have had little or no direct contact.

It was only through funding from the Casey Feldman Foundation that Pedraza was afforded the opportunity to participate in the Alternative Spring Break human trafficking trip this past spring in Miami, Florida. The host for the students in Miami was The Life of Freedom Center, a community resource that offers free support and restorative programs for female survivors of sexual exploitation and human trafficking and works toward ending human trafficking both locally and throughout the United States.

The experience was an immersive educational experience for Alejandro and her fellow volunteers who learned about this $32 billion industry and  how to identify and respond to human trafficking in their own community.  Much of Alejandra’s time and energy is focused on the environment and she was eager, as a student leader, to learn about this critical and heartbreaking issue. “This trip really helped bring the concept of human trafficking closer to home. A lot of the things I witnessed in Miami can easily be witnessed throughout the streets of Denver. I simply had never put two and two together,” said Alejandro.

Part of Alejandra’s week was spent volunteering her services at a safe house for human trafficking victims where she performed landscaping work to make the entrance more attractive.” I loved doing this,” said Alejandra, “because I was able to actually contribute to the cause with my own hard work. Casey Feldman was a champion of human rights and by participating in this trip, I took a step in the same direction.”

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Dianne (R) and Casey, Christmas 2006

 

*Dianne Anderson  is the mother of the late Casey Feldman and co-founder of The Casey Feldman Foundation.

 

Scholarship Recipient Volunteers in Aftermath of Louisiana Flood

Friday, October 27th, 2017

By Jacinda Romo*

University of Colorado (CU)  sophomore, Juwan Harris is a 2017 Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Scholarship recipient. Majoring in integrative physiology with a certificate in public health, Harris hopes to one day become a trauma surgeon and work with Doctors Without Borders. A Colorado native who enjoys Boulder’s culture and atmosphere,  Juwan’s compassion for others has propelled him into extensive community service,  which has included volunteering at the Salvation Army, Ronald McDonald House and the Denver Soup Kitchen.

Juwan is one of three brothers raised by a single mom who battled constant financial instability. He was the recipient of a Daniels Fund 4-year college scholarship as the result of his exceptional character, leadership, and community service.  Despite his childhood memories of hardship,  Juwan sees himself as quite fortunate and feels that the daily issues that he faces are trivial in comparison to those who are genuinely struggling. This motivates him to want help others experience the “chance at a life and a future.”

Juwan was part of a group of CU student volunteers this spring who participated in the “Natural Disasters and Rebuilding” Alternative Spring Break trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A stipend from the Casey Feldman Foundation covered Juwan’s expenses for the trip to Baton Rouge to help in the aftermath of catastrophic flooding which occurred in August, 2016. Thousands of homes and businesses had been submerged in waters and Harris volunteerred with a local organization that rebuilt homes for those who were physically and financially unable to do so themselves. Starting at 7 am each morning, Juwan worked on the home of a man who was confined to a wheelchair and living in a makeshift trailer on his property. Juan’s labor included removing moldy insulation and ultimately, repainting the entire home.

Juwan was able to get to know the grateful homeowner, who he described as “the most genuine, caring, and humorous man I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,”  adding that “southern hospitality is a real thing… I helped him not because I had to or because I signed up for the trip but because after meeting him the first day I felt as though I needed to help him. He was the driving force of why I woke up every morning that week at 7 am to work all day.”

“I feel like whenever a natural disaster happens it’s so easy to post a status about praying for that city or to post about donating $1….Being physically present and helping the cause hands-on is so much more meaningful,” said Juwan.

Since 2010, the Casey Feldman Foundation has provided funding for some 5 to 10 college students annually to participate in an Alternative Spring Break trip. To continue to make this scholarship stipend possible and enable students to experience the joy and gratification of volunteer service, please DONATE here.

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*Jacinda Romo is a current sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder majoring in political science with a minor in leadership and ethnic studies.  She plans to influence others through education and empathy as she pursues a career in social justice and civic engagement.

Alternative Spring Break Scholarship Winner Katie Heinen Works With the Navajo

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

By Morgan Steward

katie heinen

Katie Heinen

Business marketing major, Katie Heinen, a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, has had a passion for community service since she was 12 years old.  Through a Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Scholarship, she was able to further pursue this passion at the Dine Reservation in Arizona where she worked with Navaho youth during her weeklong spring break.

Heinen has spent the last several years of her life serving others in their communities. “My service experience began in 6th grade, and since then service has been a key part of my life, giving me encouragement and strength every day,” Heinen said. Her service trips all have different objectives, varying from working with elderly individuals who have Alzheimer’s to tutoring underprivileged children. She has even traveled as far as Nicaragua to help those in need.

“I am completely on my own to pay for these trips,” says Heinen. “When I went to Nicaragua, I did everything I could to make money through extra jobs and fundraising. It was the most humbling experience to have people support me like that.”

katie 2

Heinen on her service trip to Nicaragua

Among the many service projects she has taken part in, Heinen remembers one incident in particular that changed her life. While Heinen was in high school, she would spend every Tuesday evening working with homeless individuals in Chicago. While working at this shelter, Heinen became very close with one inhabitant in particular—a man named Joseph. Joseph eventually opened up to Katie about his life-long addiction to drugs and alcohol and struggle to stay sober. One Tuesday, Heinen could not find Joseph in the shelter. After keeping an eye open for him all night, she eventually saw him and headed over to talk.

“I looked over and saw Joseph sitting down, looking very distraught. I walked over to him, gave him a hug, and asked him what was wrong. His next few words are some that I will never forget. ‘I almost drank tonight and did drugs. I was so close to doing it. But then I thought of you, and I stayed strong,’” Heinen recalled. “ This moment has changed me forever, and has encouraged me to always stick with my passion for service. I may have left an impact on Joseph, but the way he impacted me was more than I could ever write in words.”

On her Foundation sponsored spring break trip this year, Heinen stayed on the Dine Reservation in Teec Nos Pos.  The initial goal of the project was to help support youth health by promoting outdoor activity, but after getting to talk to the young people, that goal soon changed. “Once we met with the high school students, we learned that many of the juniors and seniors were incredibly unprepared for college,” Heinen said.

“After we learned this information, we had group discussions with a private school that we were working with, a public school on the reservation, and even visited a college on the reservation to gain more information to provide to the students. We gave the students time to ask us any questions they had and discuss further the possibility of their future, including a college education,” Heinen explained.  Heinen and her fellow volunteers then spent time helping the students prepare their college applications. The experience “opened my eyes to the struggles of living on a reservation to more than just the stereotypes of poverty, mental illness, alcoholism, and domestic violence.”

Heinen feels incredibly grateful for the opportunities the Casey Feldman Foundation gave her. “I think about this trip often; the people I met, the things I experienced, and simply how blessed I am to have everything in my life,” she said. “After reading about all of Casey’s passions for service, I felt as though I could relate to her…and would have loved to get the chance to pick her brain about all of the injustices of the world,” Heinen said.

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morgan-steward2-1-150x150*Morgan Steward is a sophomore Communication and Media Studies student at Fordham University at Lincoln Center (Casey’s alma mater). Born in Beaumont, TX, she to moved to New York City to pursue a career in the media. She is the Arts & Culture Co-Editor of The Observer, Fordham’s student newspaper (where Casey was the News Editor).

“ I want to help others in any way that I can” – Vi-Thuy Vo, Scholarship Recipient

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

By Adriana Gallina*

Thuyvi VoVi-Thuy Vo is currently a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder. While she is still deciding whether to go into high school counseling or join the public health field, there’s one thing she is sure about: “What I want to actually do in life, is help others in any way that I can.”

“I am proud to be a first generation student who works hard to create my own path for success in my family,” Vi-Thuy wrote. While she loves her family and continues to be a role model for her sister thirteen years her junior, she is financially independent.

Her selflessness and devotion to serving others is what made this psychology major the perfect recipient for the 2015 Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Scholarship. The scholarship allowed her to take part in the Harm Reduction: Promoting Health and Prevention Trip based in Atlanta Georgia.

Receiving this scholarship helped relieve some of the monetary burden of volunteering and allowed her to “provide direct service to those who need it most.”

On her trip she worked with four groups, one being the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Another group was Aniz, Inc, which offers support, counseling and HIV testing to those in need. Ana’s spring break trip also took her to the the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition (AHRC) a wellness organization that focuses on the health of marginalized communities and  the Shepard Center, a rehabilitation center that helps people with a temporary or permanent disability caused by injury or disease.

Vi-Thuy was most excited to work in a new environment with people from diverse backgrounds.

She learned a lot from the Shephard Center about how to interact and work with people with disabilities. “Alternative Breaks definitely made me appreciate how privileged I am,” Vi-Thuy said.

“I worked with two different communities in Atlanta to reduce harm especially with sexual health disparities, which include HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, Hepatitis and other diseases,” she said.

“Working with the AHRC, I learned so much more about public health in different environments and how important it is to adapt to that environment and community you’re working with,”  Vi-Thuy said.

“Being on this trip also reminded me about the different levels people are at and how important it is to be mindful and use all-inclusive language,” she reflected.

Vi-Thuy said she came back from this trip with much more knowledge and a new appreciation for the communities she is a part of.

With this experience, she pledged, “I will continue to help promote and educate the health and wellness topics that matter to our community here at Boulder.”

At Boulder, she continues her work at Community Health, which is the public health division of Wardenburg Health Center which provides health care for all CU students.

Donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that other students may experience the rewards of an Alternative Spring Break.

Related Links:

Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back –  Nov 2014, Casey Feldman Foundation

About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)

Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Blog News (scroll down for all articles)

Vi-Thuy Vo and her fellow CU students at the Center fo Disease Control in Atlanta

Vi-Thuy Vo and her fellow CU students at the Center fo Disease Control in Atlanta

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Adriana Gallina updated*Adriana Gallina is currently studying Journalism at Fordham College Lincoln Center on a scholarship. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the award winning paper, The Fordham Observer, while working full time to support herself in New York City.

Freda Fosu: Working Towards a Homeless Free America

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

By Adriana Gallina and Amber Staska *

Freda Fosu

Freda Fosu

Freda Odei Fosu is one of those rare individuals who genuinely inspires others to remain optimistic despite life’s hardship. Through her own moments of adversity, she never once turned down an opportunity to give back to her community–even in times where she could have used the help herself.

“Since I can relate to people in unfortunate circumstances so well, I’m empathetic to their situations and have the compassion and dedication to offer help,” Freda said. Her empathy and dedication to others is what made her stand out as a recipient of the 2015 Alternative Spring Break scholarship made possible by the Casey Feldman Foundation.

Freda moved to New York City in 2009 from Ghana, where she then resided in a homeless shelter with her family. “I experienced lots of hardships during this time, in extreme poverty [which made] basic needs hard to afford and exposed me to lots of violence in my neighborhood,” Freda remembers. “In my neighborhood, [I] feared every living moment.”

Her own journey through hardship motivated her to reach out to those in similar situations, where she has taken multiple opportunities to volunteer in areas of education, shelter, youth and fundraising for various causes. That’s why instead of binging Netflix or heading to the beach, she chose to spend her spring break volunteering with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition, a unified social action agency that is committed to the eradication of homelessness.

Freda reflected on her project, saying, “I have learned to recognize homeless people in the streets, to treat them with kindness and respect because they value that just as much as a donation.”

She also learned about systematic means of oppression and cycles like, gentrification. Gentrification is the process by which the poor are displaced from their neighborhoods by the upper class. Typically, this pushes the poor further away from job opportunities, public transportation and moves them into food deserts.

Freda Fosu and her fellow CU students in Atlanta

Freda Fosu and her fellow CU students in Atlanta

“This was the most enlightening experience I have ever had,” Freda reflected. “This group was full of such amazing, positive people and through them I learned that I have the ability to use my strength to make a difference.”

Through GCHC, Freda also helped free food services like, The Sarah Center Soup Kitchen, Christ Church Cathedral and the St. Joseph Catholic Worker House. The latter specifically helps addicts battle addiction and lead them to career paths. Other organizations she contributed to while in Cincinnati included, the Bethany House, helping kids of homeless mothers; Tender Mercies, a shelter for people with mental illness; and the Freestore Foodbank, where people who didn’t have the means could shop limited amount of goods for free.

“I’m hopeful, that me, along with other good people, can contribute to reducing homelessness in the United States and I have this trip to thank for that confidence and strength,” Freda said.

Freda continues to volunteer for CU Boulder Community Health, where she works to promote the health and wellness of the Boulder students. The community projects include sex health, stress management, education of the risks involved with tobacco/marijuana use, prescription medication and drug overdose prevention.

“I want to take every small opportunity to help in overcoming our struggles because I know that with every little effort I put into helping my community, someone is overcoming a struggle,” Freda said. “And that is a satisfaction I want to live with for the rest of my life.”

Please donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that additional students may experience the rewards of an  Alternative Spring Break.

Related  Link:

“Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back“,   Nov. 2014  (Casey Feldman Foundation) 

About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)

Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Blog News (scroll down for all articles)

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amber*Amber Staska studied business management and graduated cum laude at West Chester University. She was a best friend of Casey’s since the 4th grade; they enjoyed many adventures together, especially, summers in Sea Isle. Currently, she pursues a career with Aqua Pharmaceuticals in West Chester as a Senior Sales Operations Analyst and maintains her passion for music on the side when time permits.

 

 

Adriana Gallina updated*Adriana Gallina is currently studying Journalism at Fordham College Lincoln Center on a scholarship. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the award winning paper, The Fordham Observer, while working full time to support herself in New York City.

Petite Powerhouse Nejat Kassahun Helps the Homeless Through Foundation Scholarship

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

By Janice Anderson Gallagher

Nejat KassahunWhile it is true that dynamite comes in small packages, that also rings true of the powerful passion, drive and love that a certain petite powerhouse possesses when it comes to her commitment to helping the homeless and the less fortunate. Ms. Nejat Kassahun, now a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) is one of the most recent and worthy 2015 recipients of an Alternate Spring Break (ASB) scholarship stipend provided by the Casey Feldman Foundation. The stipend took Nejat to Cincinnati where she worked with the homeless.

Each ASB scholarship stipend from the Foundation (anywhere from $500 to $700) is based on financial need and covers the basic expenses of the trip for each student, transportation (by motor vehicle), food and lodging. For Nejat, as with all of the recipients, the ASB trip would not have been possible otherwise.

Nejat is one of six children in a family where finances have always been an issue, aggravated the last few few years by her father’s chronic kidney disease which has left him unable to work. The first generation from from her family to attend college, Nejat has been afforded the opportunity  through grants and a few small scholarhips. Despite commuting on the bus almost two hours each day to get to campus to study in her major of integrative physiology, Nejat is somehow still able to satisfy her equally deep seated passion for volunteering.

Even before her alternative spring break experiences, countless underprivileged and in-crisis people had benefited from the time and energy Nejat devoted to assisting at the Food Bank of the Rockies; working with children at the Mission Viejo Elementary School in Aurora; and volunteering at the Ansar Pantry where she provides food to the homeless and needy.  But her practically relentless drive to give-back doesn’t stop there.

Nejat painting at Tender Mercies, a homeless center in Cincinnati

Nejat painting at Tender Mercies, a homeless center in Cincinnati

There is no doubt that by the time spring break arrives, every college student has rightfully earned a little time-off to decompress and re-energize; to spend time with friends and family or to just chill. Some might have the financial means to relax far away on a sunny tropical beach or blaze trails on snowbaords down pine and aspen-lined ski slopes, but for Nejat, she was able to spend her week in a way which according to her, really has “made all the difference.”

“My Alternative Spring Break was one of the best decisions I ever made. I am thankful that this wonderful opportunity knocked on my door and that I answered it.”  Nejat spent her week off from classes doing what she loves most.

In Cincinnati on her ABS trip, Kassahun worked with the Cincinnati Homeless Coalition and StreetVibes. Nejat served meals to the homeless in the soup kitchen at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and at St. Joseph’s Workers House she engaged with people struggling with drug and alcohol dependencies. At a center for the homeless and mentally ill called Tender Mercies, Nejat busied herself by providing a fresh coat of paint that no doubt refreshed and brought new energy to the center.

Nejat and her fellow volunteers made the front page of StreetVibes for their work with the homeless

Nejat and her fellow volunteers made the front page of StreetVibes for their work with the homeless

While such a routine might seem daunting, Nejat’s ‘journey of giving’ continued and took her to the FreeStore FoodBank and then to the Interfaith Workers Center where she petitioned against wage theft and experienced first-hand how others either embraced or rejected her and her colleagues’ efforts. “My perception changed even more during this trip. I definitely always try not to make assumptions without really knowing [the issues] because we don’t know the story of others. I want to educate and teach friends and family what I learned about homelessness and how it’s wrong to automatically assume negative encounters will occur when dealing with the homeless.”

And while countless others are grateful and have benefited from her hard work and many sacrifices, the humble Nejat is thankful that she was granted a scholarship to work with and help the less fortunate. “I didn’t only become more knowledgeable but I made wonderful friends and will forever keep this experience and memories with me! This was a life changing experience and I am very thankful for this amazing opportunity!”

Donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that other deserving students may experience an Alternative Spring Break. 

Related Links:

“Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back“,   Nov. 2014  (Casey Feldman Foundation) 

About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)

Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Blog News (scroll down through for all articles)

Nejat Kassahun, 2nd from left, with scholarship recipients Colin Mayberry (PIIE 2013), Priyanka Guragain (ASB 2014), Ramya Palaniappan (PIIE 2015) & Jamie Haller (ASB 2012) at the Feldman home in August

Nejat Kassahun, 2nd from left, with scholarship recipients Colin Mayberry (PIIE 2013), Priyanka Guragain (ASB 2014), Ramya Palaniappan (PIIE 2015) & Jamie Haller (ASB 2012) at the Feldman home in August

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janice (2)Janice Anderson Gallagher is a retired high school teacher and the aunt of the late Casey Feldman.

 

 

What has Jamie Haller been doing doing to “leave this world a better place”? An update on our 2012 ASB scholarship recipient

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

*By Dianne AndersonJamie with her students in Columbia

Jamie with her students in Colombia

“My week in New Orleans helping to rebuild a home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina was incredible and by far, one of the most rewarding weeks of my life”, said Jamie Haller in 2012. Jamie was able to spend her one week spring break from college working to help Katrina victims as a result of a Casey Feldman Foundation scholarship stipend which covered Jamie’s expenses for the trip. After that spring break experience, Jamie “vowed to leave this world a better place.”  What has Jamie been up to in the three and a half years since her work in New Orleans and has she been working toward that goal?

After graduating in May of 2014 with a degree in International Affairs and a minor in Education, Jamie knew that she wanted to head abroad to work in the realm of education, something she reports that, “I’ve always been passionate about.”  This led Jamie to Guatemala where she obtained a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. Jamie then worked at a language school in Antigua, Guatemala teaching adults and the local tourist police force for five months.

Wanting to make more of an impact,  Jamie accepted a teaching opportunity in Colombia. The program was right –  it involved working in underfunded and under resourced public schools where there is little access to quality English education. Jamie reports being grateful for her six months in Colombia where she learned a lot about herself as a teacher, her students and life in general.

Jamie is currently in New Mexico, teaching environmental stewardship at an outdoor education school for elementary students. From there?

Jamie has accepted an inviation to work for the Peace Corps in March of 2016. She will be heading onto to the Dominican Republic for 27 months to volunteer as a Literacy Promoter!

According to Jamie, “My experience with Alternative Breaks at CU Boulder has been such a huge stepping-stone to get me to where I am today. The leadership skills gained, the friendships formed, and the confidence I’ve obtained from my two Alternative Break experiences, have helped me grow as a person and work toward achieving many of my goals.”  I want to especially thank Dianne and Joel and the Casey Feldman Foundation  for granting me this opportunity. It is an honor to help Casey’s legacy live on.”

And, it is an honor to have Jamie Haller as one of the recipients of a scholarship which bears Casey’s name. In answer to the question? In everything that Jamie has done already, she will no doubt have already accomplished her goal of leaving this world a better place.

Support our efforts in fostering a generation who want to leave this world a better place and assist us in increasing the number of students who can participate. Donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation

Jamie Haller with goat

Related Links: 

Scholarship Recipient Vows to Leave this World a Better Place, Oct. 2012 (Casey Feldman Foundation article about Jamie and her Alternative Spring Break experience)

About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)

Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back , Nov. 2014  (Casey Feldman Foundation) 

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Dianne and Casey, Christmas 2006

Dianne and Casey, Christmas 2006

*Dianne Anderson is the mother of the late Casey Feldman and co-founder of the The Casey Feldman Foundation and its sponsored project, EndDD.org.