Last year, Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break program came to Memphis for the first time with the help of Whitehaven graduate and Howard student Ayanna McFarland.
Howard University students have returned to Memphis for Alternative Spring Break. Some 50 students are in Memphis this week volunteering for a number of efforts.
This year McFarland, a junior at Howard, has returned and brought almost 50 students with her. There is no beach and there are no mountains, but, as McFarland knows too well from having grown up here, there are educational hills to climb.
“I’m from Memphis and so I understand that Memphis is a big city with problems,” McFarland said. “I decided to reach back and give to my community. We’re going to be building on what we did last year.”
Howard’s ASB program runs from March 8-14, and nearly 400 students will volunteer more than 16,000 hours in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Haiti.
The students will take on societal issues ranging from gun control to illiteracy and health/sexual education.
In Memphis, McFarland says the volunteers will tutor students in reading and math, teach health/sexual education, speak to juvenile offenders about attending college and, “weather permitting,” do some outside work, including planting gardens, at Caritas Village. They will also make some public service announcement videos.
“With us being a historically black college, most of us are examples of what (youth in Memphis) can do,” McFarland said. “Some of the students have harrowing stories of what they went through to get here.”
McFarland’s own story is less harrowing. She had a middle-class upbringing and plans to teach after graduation. Beyond that, her goals are a bit bigger.
“Eventually become superintendent of Shelby County Schools,” she said. “Absolutely.”