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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, February 22, 2024

Tufts launches Jumbo Spring Break civic engagement program

The new spring break experience promotes civic engagement with local communities.

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The Jumbo statue is pictured on Oct. 18, 2020.

In March, students will have the opportunity to dedicate their spring breaks to civic engagement through a new program, Jumbo Spring Break, which was collaboratively designed over the last semester by the Dean of Students Office, Tufts Community Union Senate, Tisch College of Civic Life, Career Center and the Chaplaincy.

The new experience is a five-day commitment coinciding with spring break that will offer a curated list of activities based on one of three themes: politics and government, sustainability, and housing and human services. Regardless of theme, students will be offered the opportunity to explore career paths and engage in social events with other students.

Senior Julian Chun and first-year Lenka Smiljanic are the student coordinators for the program.

“We’re starting a completely new experience, built for students by students … [alongside] the Office of Student Life and other offices that we’re collaborating with … to give an opportunity to all different students with all different interests,” Smiljanic said.

According to TCU Senate President Arielle Galinsky the idea for Jumbo Spring Break stemmed from a desire to provide students with a spring break opportunity that is both “meaningful and different” from their normal Tufts experience. Galinsky said that the program is meant as an alternative to the “extraordinarily expensive” options of flying home or traveling for the week long holiday.

“Originally … the idea was that we would offer … trips with an academic or research component to it,” Galinsky said. “We weren’t able to make that happen for this year, but it might happen in future years.”

Students will choose a track of their interest, regardless of prior knowledge, and will participate in “career treks” in collaboration with Tufts Career Center, leading them towards opportunities to make connections and meet individuals — many of them Tufts alums — in the workplace.

“It will be set up [like] a [pre-orientation] type of format where you have about five days of programming. Part of the day will be in the interest of your track … and the other part of the day will be social activities,” Galinsky said.

For the politics and government track, Galinsky said, students might tour the State House, meet government officials and help citizens sign up for voting, while participants in the housing and human services track might participate in projects with the Somerville Homeless Coalition and Habitat for Humanity. Full activity schedules will not be given to participants until March.

“I did the FOCUS pre-orientation. … I had an amazing time and it influenced me to come here,” first-year Adriana Bussel-Alonso said.

According to Chun, experiences will be localized to Medford and Somerville in order to form “more beneficial and reciprocal relationships” with local civic leaders.

“[This is] something new that's going to not only benefit myself, but [will also] benefit the university and the community around me. I think that's what's really special about this,” Chun said.

Jumbo Spring Break aims to fulfill Tufts’ civic engagement mission while presenting social opportunities that allow students interested in engaging with the Medford/Somerville community to have meaningful experiences.

“One of the main reasons why I came to Tufts is because I was drawn to the whole idea of being engaged with the communities. … I want to connect more with underserved areas,” Paola Landeros, a first-year student interested in the program, said.

Students participating in the program will reside in their usual housing during the week, either on-campus dorms or off-campus housing for upperclassmen.

The program’s $500 fee will include all meals, transportation and event expenses for the weeklong program. In seeking accessibility and affordability, the TCU Senate will provide scaling financial assistance based on students’ preexisting financial aid.

Planning for the program started last semester but the idea for a curated spring break experience has been in the works for about a year, the coordinators said.

“An advantage of me being a senior and [Smiljanic] being a first-year was also that we have those both sides of what’s new and upcoming and what has already happened,” Chun said.

Both Chun and Smiljanic have been talking to various student organizations on campus and have heard good responses from Tufts students.

“We have had quite a few sign-ups so far. … People are actually interested in something like this happening,” Smiljanic said.

In aiming for inclusivity, the student coordinators emphasized that there is no selection process for Jumbo Spring Break.

“It's first come, first serve; anyone and everyone is welcome,” Chun said.

The application deadline for Jumbo Spring Break is Feb. 5.