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03-10-2014

Clarkson University Students Choose Alternative Spring Break in Buffalo with Habitat for Humanity

Buffalo doesn't usually make the list of spring break destinations, but then again, we're talking about Clarkson University students who are choosing to help Habitat for Humanity through its Collegiate Challenge program, rather than celebrate at a vacation hot spot.

 Front row: Joanina Gicobi (NSBE), Katherin Flores (NSBE), and Zhan Li (SASE); Second row: Hiba Saidi (SWE), Julia Dockum (SWE), Tara Price (SWE), and Silvana Payne (SWE); Third row: Ray Phillips (AISES) and Ryan Yen (SASE); Top row: Kevin Cave (NSBE), Jin Jian (SASE), and Batsal Pudasaini (SASE). Not present for photo: Emir Garcia Nunez (SHPE) and Chasity Nunez (NSBE).Fourteen students will board University vans on March 16 and head to Buffalo, where they'll spend five days pitching in at various Habitat work sites. In their free time, they're looking forward to seeing Niagara Falls before heading back to Potsdam the following weekend. Their main goal, say students, is simply to help.

“I wasn't able to participate in Habitat before and I wanted to try it,” says Ryan Yen of Avon, Conn. A sophomore majoring in software engineering, he adds, “It's nice to give back to the community.”

Senior Ray Phillips of Akwasasne agrees. A major in electrical engineering, he'll graduate in May and usually spends his college breaks volunteering for various community projects.

The student volunteers are members of five professional societies: AISES (American Indian Science & Engineering Society), NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers), SASE (Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers), SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and SWE (Society of Women Engineers).

Vicki Clark, assistant to the assistant vice president for diversity initiatives, says that the students started working on the alternative break last fall.

“The students will be housed at the Franciscan Guest House, a previous nuns' residence in Buffalo. The Guest House is making us welcome with beds, bathrooms, a kitchen, common area and laundry facilities. The students have worked out roommates, meal plans, who is cooking vs. who is cleaning up,” Clark notes. “I think we'll see a lot of bonding and cooperation.”

The students will be doing anything from demolition, framing, and wrapping, to installing insulation or cleaning up. That suits junior Julia Dockum of Fairhaven, Vt., just fine.

“When I heard we would work with Habitat for Humanity, I was incredibly excited and wanted to get involved. Civil engineering is right up my alley, and I'm eager to put my skills to use in community service,” she says.

For sophomore Emir Garcia-Nunez, the chance to give back hits close to home. Originally from the Dominican Republic, he says, “There are a lot of people without homes or their homes are in bad condition. Even if I can't give to my country directly, I can give to people like them. This is the right place to start my first volunteer event.” Now from Brooklyn and majoring in aeronautical and mechanical engineering, he's also happy to represent Clarkson for this effort.

Kevin Cave is a junior from Georgetown, Guyana, and hasn't been home in four years. He has done construction work before and looks forward to getting to know the family whose house is being built.

“To see the joy on their faces is wonderful,” Cave says. He's enjoying his studies in electrical engineering and his experiences in northern New York. It's "very cold" here, he notes, which ought to prepare him for Buffalo.

Collegiate Challenge is a year-round alternative break program of Habitat for Humanity. Groups spend one week working with a local affiliate, community and partner families to help eliminate poverty housing in the area.

Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International has helped build or repair more than 800,000 houses and served more than four million people around the world.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Fourteen Clarkson University students are heading to Buffalo for Spring Break, where they'll spend five days volunteering at Habitat for Humanity work sites. Front row:  Joanina Gicobi (NSBE), Katherin Flores (NSBE), and Zhan Li (SASE); Second row: Hiba Saidi (SWE), Julia Dockum (SWE), Tara Price (SWE), and Silvana Payne (SWE); Third row: Ray Phillips (AISES) and Ryan Yen (SASE); Top row: Kevin Cave (NSBE), Jin Jian (SASE), and Batsal Pudasaini (SASE). Not present for photo: Emir Garcia Nunez (SHPE) and Chasity Nunez (NSBE).

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/habitat-buffalo-2014.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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