Howard University Students Mentor Perspectives Students During Alternative Spring Break

March 16, 2015
Briana Carter, Public Relations Major at Howard University contributed to this article

For five consecutive years, Perspectives Leadership Academy (PLA) scholars are working with college students from Howard University during the week of March 16th. "Each year, Howard students visit during their spring break and work with a select group of students," said Antoinette Self, program manager at PLA.

Hundreds of Howard University students who skipped the beaches, parties, vacations and even trips home for spring break are embarking to seven U.S. cities and Haiti, where they will spend the week serving others. This year during the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) week of March 16, more than 400 students will be working in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and the communities of Croix des Bouquets and Petion Ville in Haiti.

ASB Chicago participants will tackle the gun violence epidemic facing the city. Howard University students will educate high school students about conflict resolution and ways to build a better future for themselves. Students will also work with advocacy groups to lobby for stricter gun laws.

“I feel like gun violence, literacy and education are topics that are real important and [they] hit home to me,” said Grace Hawkins, 21, a junior psychology major from Camden, N.J. She could relate to the students and understand that a city’s reputation sometimes can overshadow an individual’s good character.

On a daily basis, Perspectives students study the 26 principles of A Disciplined Life (ADL) that help students develop positive self-perception, healthy relationships, and tools for productivity. The Howard ASB partnership allows middle and high school students an opportunity to develop relationships with college-going peers. “I just want to build relationships,” said Hawkins. “I want them to feel like my stay here was helpful.”

The daily interaction between the students leads to new relationships and reinforce the learning objectives at Perspectives, to educate students for college and prepare them for life. “They are funny and creative [children],” said Hawkins, after spending the day with students at the Perspectives Leadership Academy. “They live in an environment where they have to be street smart, so they may do things that are different, but they are not lost.”

Gun violence affects more than the person who is shot, noted Nnenna Ochunba, 19, sophomore economics and political science major from Newark, N.J. “It affects the shooter, the shooter’s friends and their families – and that just ripples out and has so many negative effects on the community.” Because the issue of gun violence is so prominent in Chicago, he jumped at the opportunity to part in the ASB and inspire Perspectives students to not be a part of the ripple.

"Our experience with ASB Chicago and Howard University students is always really positive for our scholars who want to be engaged and inspired," said Self. "Here at Perspectives Charter Schools, we look forward to many more years engaged in meaningful learning and instruction with Howard and ASB Chicago."

“I just want to inspire at least one person,” said Ochunba. “I just want to see [the students] aspire to greater things.”

The effort is part of the University’s award-winning Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program led by Executive Director Dr. Paula Whetsel-Ribeau.