While some collegiettes will be hitting the beaches in Cancun or South Padre for spring break, senior Alexa Longsworth proposes an alternative idea. Longsworth, one of six Co-Presidents of the organization Students Today Leaders Forever (STLF), encourages students to go on one of the group’s Pay it Forward spring break tours. This week, Her Campus Illinois got the chance to sit down with Longsworth to get more information about this trip (which is still open for registration!) and hear about STLF’s plans beyond spring break.
Her Campus: Tell us about STLF.
Alexa Longsworth: We’re a service and leadership group, part of the nationwide nonprofit organization. We believe that every individual has leadership skills already built into them and we try to enhance them. On campus throughout the year we participate in different service activities. Besides these activities, the main focus of our group is our spring break trip.
HC: What’s the spring break trip?
AL: We travel to six different cities over nine days and do service in different communities of need along the way. We spend each day in a city, do a service and tourism activity and then travel to a new city the next day. This year, we have four charter buses and each bus goes to five different cities. At the end, every bus meets up in Pensacola, Fla., where we’re joining the STLF chapter at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Each bus takes a different route to Florida. Some of the cities that the buses are going to include Atlanta, Charleston, S.C. and Charlotte, N.C.
HC: Have you been on it before? What’s your favorite part?
AL: I went on the trip two years ago when we finished in Washington. We went through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland on the way to D.C. One day we cleaned a men’s homeless shelter, we also worked at a school for blind children and gardened in the Hershey Gardens. The service is very diverse. My favorite thing about the trip was that my birthday fell during it. On my birthday, we cleaned a men’s homeless shelter and it was a very humbling experience. It gave me perspective that not everything is about me and there are so many people in different communities which need help that I can give back to.
HC: Do you do anything else in the cities besides volunteering?
AL: In every city we do a tourism activity along with service. When we were in Pennsylvania two years ago, we got to take a tour of the Hershey factory and make our own chocolate. The tour went zip-lining last year and one of the buses on the tour this year is going to the Smoky Mountains.
HC: How does leadership tie into the organization?
AL: During the trip, we do nightly leadership activities geared toward forming interpersonal connections with a focus on building relationships with one another. We believe that once you have relationships with other people, you can have a relationship as a leader.
HC: What service activities does STLF do besides the trip?
AL: Throughout the year we complete on-campus service projects as a way to give back to our own community. We do a few different things like cleaning a church and participating in iHelp. We aim for monthly projects.
HC: What can students expect in the next few years from STLF?
AL: This is only our third year on campus, but we’re hoping to expand to six buses for the spring break trip in coming years. We also want to partner with other Illinois chapters to hold mini weekend service trips in preparation for the nine day spring break one.
HC: Why should students choose the STLF spring break trip over alternatives?
AL: Most trips visit just one city, but we’re going to six cities over nine days, which is a really great opportunity to travel across the country. We have a focus on building leadership along with service, so we do leadership activities to bring out this aspect in individuals. We also don’t have an application, so it’s really easy to register!
Registration is still open and you don’t have to be a member of STLF to participate. Registration is on a first come, first served basis and the trip is currently about two thirds full. To register, visit: stlf.net/chapters/uillinois
Photos courtesy of Alexa Longsworth