The Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs recently hosted its first alternative spring break trip, taking 13 USC students to Montgomery, Ala.
“In addition to Alabama’s rich history in the civil rights movement, Montgomery has a Habitat for Humanity chapter,” said Syreeta Aboubaker, assistant director of the center and trip coordinator. “We thought we could relate the two and expose students to rural poverty.”
The group spent the week working for Habitat for Humanity, restoring a donated house that had been damaged by an attic fire. Each day, the volunteers woke up at 6:30 a.m. to clean, paint and reconstruct the house for a woman, her children and her mother.
Marcellus Brookshaw, a Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs assistant pursuing a master of education in postsecondary administration and student affairs, found the family’s appreciation rewarding.
“They were surprised that people all the way from USC were coming to help them out,” he said. “It was a great feeling to make such a big difference in the community.”
After working on the house, the group spent afternoons visiting the cities of Selma, Birmingham and Tuskegee.
“We touched the bricks made by some of the first students of Tuskegee University,” said Bianca Carneiro, a senior majoring in visual anthropology. “My eyes and heart were opened to so many pieces of history.”
In addition to exploring museums and sites to learn about discrimination, the group had the opportunity to converse with individuals who took part in the civil rights movement. The volunteers met a former typist for Martin Luther King Jr., a woman who participated in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery and a minister who participated in King’s strategy meetings with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
“My hope was that students would go away understanding more about the movement,” Aboubaker said. “To hear the real-life truth that you’re not going to find in a book — that was the jewel of the whole trip.”
Brookshaw and Aboubaker hope the trip will be the first of many opportunities for volunteers to learn and give back.
“At a great institution like USC, we have that potential to be very influential,” Brookshaw said. “Our efforts show our values as Trojans making a difference.”