ECU students

East Carolina University students, left to right, Ashley Shepard, Ashley Arensberg and Courtney Blalock stack bags of oyster shells Wednesday at Camp Albemarle in Newport in preparation for a shoreline restoration project they assisted with Thursday as part of the Leadership and Civic Engagement alternative spring break program. (Cheryl Burke photo)

NEWPORT — While many college students spend spring break sunning on a beach, a group of East Carolina University students spent this week doing service projects in the county.

Students spent part of Wednesday bagging up oyster shells in preparation for a shoreline restoration project they assisted with Thursday at Camp Albemarle, where they stayed for the week. The group also helped the camp prepare for a spring fest that took place Saturday.

Under the guidance of the N.C. Coastal Federation, students also participated in hiking trail maintenance and cleanup at Fort Macon State Park, North River wetlands preserve and the N.C. Coastal Federation, as well as helped with educational programs at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Coastal Carolina.

The group of seven is among 100 ECU students spread out through communities along the East Coast participating in the Leadership and Civic Engagement alternative spring break program. This is the eighth year ECU students have traveled to the county as part of the program.

“We’ve loved working here this week,” Bailey Steckbauer, lead staff with the ECU group, said Wednesday. “This county is one of the longest standing alternative spring break destinations for ECU.”

Ms. Steckbauer said many of the projects are in partnership with the federation and teach students environmental and civic responsibility.

“I thought it would be really cool to give back to the community and focus on something that wasn’t about me for a week,” said ECU freshman Ashley Arensberg of Mooresville, an architectural design major.

Courtney Blalock of Belmont, a junior majoring in information and computer technology, said she’s part of the service fraternity Alpha Pi Omega, and wanted to help a community during her break.

“I wanted to be able to serve someone else’s community,” she said.

ECU junior Ashley Shepard of Raleigh, a criminal justice major, said, “Service is my passion. I came here for spring break because I can just focus on service and not have to worry about school.”

Rachel Bisesi, coastal education coordinator with the federation, organized the projects for the group. She said she was grateful to get the extra help with projects.

“It means a lot and says a lot about their character to use their spring break to serve a community,” she said. “It helps us out a lot with projects because we can get a lot done that we otherwise would not be able to.”

The students arrived in the county Sunday and returned to their homes Thursday. They resume classes Monday.

Other projects ECU students participated in around the region this week include working with youth and nutrition programs in Greenville, and weeding and planting community gardens and serving in underserved Wilson neighborhoods to address access to healthy foods and health care. Another group of students traveled to Northern Ireland and did service-learning projects at youth clubs. Others worked with the homeless in Baltimore, Md.

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