(Photo: AP / Reed Saxon)
A growing trend among spring breakers ditching kegs for something more impacting now has its own label - Alternative Spring Break. Even MTV is noticing.
"I think it's a definite trend that the secular mainstream community is noticing and there's a strong desire on the parts of many in university administration and in culture, like MTV, that are wanting to promote an alternative," said Campus Crusade for Christ spokesman Tony Arnold.
While the alternative spring-break movement, involving high school and college students engaging in community service and experiential learning, has been around for more than a decade, the label has emerged as a definite name next to Spring Break.
"[Millennials] are very interested in seeing their lives count for something than just partying," Arnold pointed out.
Thousands of college students have signed up for Katrina relief efforts in the Gulf Coast area, where houses are still being gutted and rebuilt. In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, Campus Crusade for Christ, one of the largest campus organizations in the nation, saw its largest outreach participation ever with 15,000 students over the course of around seven months.
While the Gulf Coast remains a popular Alternative Spring Break spot, thousands of others are still hitting the nation's beaches but not for the stereotypical college spring break.
Some 1,300 students are participating in CCC's Big Break in Panama City over their respective weeklong breaks for their own spiritual growth and for evangelistic outreach. Students are challenged to share their faith with the partiers and others hanging out at the beach.
Last week, around six to eight students were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico in front of thousands of spring breakers, according to Arnold. Outreaches are taking place at around 14 different beaches, said Arnold, including Daytona and the Caribbean.
"Wherever college students are headed, we have students of ours to share their faith and reach out to them," said the CCC spokesman.
Although a break off of campus, hundreds of students are still headed to other college campuses worldwide to reach peers. CCC is sending 400 students to campuses in Mexico City, which houses 4 million college students, according to Arnold, and other new campuses where CCC is not currently at.
The campus ministry is also covering the inner city base where students will volunteer in anything from outreaches to children and tutoring to service projects.
As CCC takes students to Chicago, Detroit and West Coast cities, InterVarsity Fellowship, another prominent national campus organization, has hundreds of students flocking to St. Louis, Mo., throughout this month for training in urban leadership and biblical discipleship through community service. This week, 120 students aided refugee children in daycare centers, worked in inner city schools and built wheelchair ramps for the disabled. And not all alternative spring breakers are Christian, according to Gerry Chappeau, CityLights project director.
Some of this year's participating students are Muslim and Hindu, said Chappeau, who has been directing the urban projects with his wife Sharie since 1994. During their week's worth of activities, they are not preached to but instead experience and see the "demonstration of the gospel." Chappeau called it "come and see discipleship."
"Action has a huge impact," he said.
Overall, Alternative Spring Break is increasingly popular across religious circles and non-believers alike and it is a trend that marks a "healthy sign," says Arnold.