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Spring Break 101

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We’re going to just come out and say it: spring break has a bad reputation.

We’re pretty sure it started with college students — and MTV must have had something to do with it, but the fact remains, when you think Spring Break, you mostly think about out of control, suburned teens and twenty-somethings behaving like neanderthals on on a cheesy boardwalk somewhere.

The good news is, we also have an update for that stereotype. Students are starting to use that much needed week off at the end of a dreary winter to do something positive for themselves and more often, other people.

Check out the guide below for resources on how to plan a vacation of volunteering and because we still do believe a little quality beach time is in order this time of year, don’t miss the sun safety guide and swimsuit finder too.

Swimsuit Finder

Are you a Bikini Babe, Tankini Mini or One-Piece Wonder?

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Platanitos Turtle Camp
Sign Up: http://seaturtlecamp.org

Instead of hitting the beach at a resort in Mexico and sunburning your time away, why not travel to a turtle reserve like the Playa Las Tortugas where you can help biologists and environmentalists save sea turtles. Not only will you spend your time working at the camp and releasing tiny turtles at sunset, you'll learn all about the Olive Ridley Sea Turtles species, their environment and the dangers that may force them into extinction.

So what makes the Plantanitos Turtle Camp so special? Check out the information below from SeaTurtleCamp.org:

The success of the Platanitos Turtle Camp depends on volunteers, both national and international, who donate their time and physical labor to help preserve the endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtles that come to nest at Playa Las Tortugas every year.

The primary volunteer duties are carried out at night when the sea turtles leave the ocean to lay their eggs. This includes patrolling the beach, even in stormy weather, collecting turtle eggs and bringing them back to the camp or incubation. As the turtles begin to hatch, volunteers help remove them from the nesting boxes located on the camp grounds in preparation for their release. Just before sunset is the big event where hundreds, some nights even thousands, are released on the beach and scramble across the sand and through the waves to their new life in the ocean.

By joining in this extraordinary event volunteers will realize that their help truly improves the odds of survival for these gentle creatures. In addition to working on turtle patrol the volunteers are expected to help with cooking and cleaning duties in the camp.

While there is always a lot of work to be done, there is also time to relax and make new friends. The experience gained by each individual during their visit here will depend on their desire to enjoy life and to blend into the Mexican culture. By keeping an open mind volunteers are sure see many benefits from their time in the Turtle Camp.

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Habitat for Humanity
Sign Up: http://www.habitat.org/youthprograms/

Instead of bringing down the house with sleep overs and hanging out with friends, try building a new one for someone in need! Habitat for Humanity has numerous programs for kids and teens of all ages. Want to stay local? You can check for local affiliates who may be building homes in your area. Feel like going on a trip? Teens can apply for programs in areas that have been devastated by natural disasters.

What's great about building houses? Well, first of all, you'll be creating a new home for a deserving family, so you'll get that warm and fuzzy feeling you have when you watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Plus, it's a great way to make new friends, get good exercise and learn new skills.

Many students who become involved with Habitat, also participate in leadership events that help them develop goals for the future and their communities.

Photo Credit: HFHI/Steffan Hacker

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Alternative Spring Break with the American Hiking Society
Sign Up: http://www.americanhiking.org/Get-Involved/Volunteer-Vacations/Alt-Spring-Break/

Maybe you feel very connected to nature, or you've never been on a hike before, but either way, the American Hiking Society has a program for spring breakers that will not only be scenic and good exercise, it's an opportunity to improve the help of our national forests. Are you a total science buff? Skip science camp and volunteer for your vacation.

Check out information about the program from the American Hiking Society:

For 30 years, American Hiking Society has organized hundreds of Volunteer Vacations that help keep our trails open, safe, and enjoyable today and for future generations. This year, instead of spending spring break striving for the perfect tan, join American Hiking on an alternative kind of adventure. Bring only your camping gear and a willingness to get dirty. We provide the rest.

"All of us had the trip of a lifetime! Throughout the course of the week, we saved 671 hemlock trees, removed thousands of multi-flora rose, and cleaned three historical houses." -- Kyle Reiser, The Ohio State Unviersity, Columbus

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United Planet Sign Up: http://www.unitedplanet.org/short-term-volunteer-abroad/

For those of you with wander lust, we have the perfect alternative spring break for you. United Planet is a non-profit organization dedicated to "create a world in which all people understand, respect, and support one another." With hundreds of volunteers across the globe they develop cultural programs that fit the needs of each community and volunteer (or group of volunteers).

To find the right quest for you, check out there list of programs (we recommend short-term if this is just for spring break) and see if something interests you. If you've always wanted to learn about a new culture and would like to increase awareness about issues affecting people across the globe this could be a good way to start your adventure.

Check out more information from United Planet below:

United Planet's innovative programs are designed to expose our common human bonds, generate respect and appreciation for our cultural, racial, and religious diversity, and enrich lives of our neighbors worldwide. The Volunteer Abroad program offers you or your group a life-changing opportunity to interact with local communities through customized work experiences, cultural activities, and home stays.

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There are many other ways to spend your spring break as a volunteer. Check out local reading programs where you can encourage young kids to read at your public library, volunteer to play games and hang out with the elderly at a nearby senior center, or even get involved with your local humane society, they always need extra help taking care of animals.

Ultimately, you want to do something that makes you feel happy and will give you an enriching experience that will last a lifetime! Happy Alternative Spring Break!

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Some spring-breakers are pitching in to help after superstorm Sandy.

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Are you ready for a volunteer vacation?

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"Wanna go tan?" Those words probably don't seem like a threat to you, but recent skin ...

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