News Release

UDM ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK: Students Making a Difference in Our World

At this time of the year, many college students are searching for the right bikini or Speedo and traveling to a hot sandy beach for their spring break after grueling months of class. While some might be living the "life of leisure," a select group of students at University of Detroit Mercy will spend their vacations in a non-traditional way, by taking part in the University Ministry's 23rd annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB).

From March 3 - March 10, 31 people will be participating in several volunteer opportunities across the country, including trips to Washington, D.C.; Nogales, Arizona; New Orleans, Louisiana; Salem, West Virginia, Chicago, Illinois and back home in Detroit.

Participation in the University’s Alternative Spring Break gives college students a chance to reflect on how they can make a difference in the lives of others. ASB participants exemplify the Jesuit education goal, being "men and women for others" and the Mercy tradition of "compassionate service to those in need," both part of UDM’s mission as an institution of learning.

UDM's ASB 2012 will travel to six different cities, and students will post messages to the Alternative Sprint Break blog each evening to share their daily experiences:

  • Washington D.C. – Hunger and Homelessness Issues
    Five UDM representatives will be working with various local D.C. agencies that reach out to the homeless population. They will also connect with the Campus Kitchen Project that started in the area and now has a program operating on UDM’s campus.  In the city that houses our nation’s capitol there are still a large number of homeless men and women and our students will make a difference in several different ways.
  • Nogales, Arizona – Border Issues
    Five UDM representatives will be traveling to the United States and Mexican borders.  Through experiences and immersion, UDM students will better understand how people are treated at the border, assisting the Kino Border Initiative, a Jesuit-sponsored ministry for immigrants and people at the border crossing. 
  • New Orleans   - Rebuilding New Orleans
    Six years after Katrina and the recent Deepwater Horizon disaster, the environment around New Orleans has been hit hard and still faces challenges.  This year, six representatives from UDM will be working on a different kind of rebuilding. They will help rebuild wetlands with the Bayou Rebirth program as well as meet others who were affected by Katrina in 2005.
  • Chicago – Urban Poverty
    This year, five UDM representatives will return to the “Back of the Yards" neighborhood in Chicago’s southwest side to help the community.  The students assist PORT Ministries during the week and learning about the immigrant neighborhood’s rich and deep history.
  • Salem, West Virginia—Rural Poverty
    Six UDM representatives are headed to Appalachia to work on the Nazareth Farm, a Catholic community in rural West Virginia that transforms lives through a service-retreat experience. At the Farm, students will help with home repairs, reach out to the area’s mountain community and talk with those in the community. Participants will also be immersed in the Appalachian culture and learn about environmental sustainability and living simply. 
  • Detroit – Immigration
    This year, three students will better understand the immigration issues through immersion and service at Freedom House in southwest Detroit. Freedom House is a temporary home for survivors of persecution from around the world seeking legal shelter in the U.S. and Canada.  Students will be also work at ACCESS in Dearborn.

This is the second year UDM’s University Ministry has added the Detroit location to the ASB program, as students volunteer on local projects throughout the year as part of the University’s mission. "Because UDM is an urban university, it is important to promote the city of Detroit whenever possible," David Nantais, director of the department explained. "Detroit is a city rich with ethnic and racial diversity, a multi-faceted history and tens of thousands of committed citizens working to change things for the better. It is very inspiring and we believe our students should see these aspects as often as possible. Many college students don’t know Detroit really well, and the Detroit ASB trip can help open them up to the community,” he added.

Alternative Spring Break is sponsored and organized by University Ministry at the University of Detroit Mercy. For more information or to donate to the University’s Alternative Spring Break, visit the department’s blog page:, the UDM Ministry website or contact the office at 313-993-1560.

Release date: February 23, 2012

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The University of Detroit Mercy is Michigan's largest private Catholic University, with more than 100 academic majors and programs. Sponsored by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and the Sisters of Mercy, the University has campuses located in downtown and northwest Detroit.

UDM is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities and the largest of 17 Mercy institutions of higher education in the United States. For the 14th consecutive year, University of Detroit Mercy is listed in the top tier of Midwest regional universities in the 2015 edition of the U.S. News & World Report's "Best Colleges" rankings.