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ECU students lend helping hand with 'Alternative Spring Break'

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NEWPORT, Carteret County - It is Spring Break for a lot of colleges including East Carolina University. While many students will give anything to get some down time, some students have used the opportunity to funnel into making a positive impact.

Instead of spending their vacation time relaxing, a group of students from ECU are choosing to stay closer to the community they are calling home for the duration of their college years, to lend a helping hand where it is needed. It is part of the university's Center For Leadership And Civic Engagement's programs aimed at providing students with volunteer projects across the state and the country in which they can participate.

"I just felt that this would be a better output than just going to the beach," said Diamante Slye who is from Rocky Mount. Slye is one of a number of students who have been helping out at the N.C. Coastal Federation over the spring break this week.

The students cleaned and painted the agency's offices and will be doing the same for cabins at Camp Albemarle, which is where they will be bunking for the week. A major focus of their schedule is on environment-related activities such as bagging oyster shells for ongoing Oyster Habitat Restoration Project. They are also scheduled to tend to a rain water garden at a local elementary school.

Alternative Spring Breaks, as they have come to be known, are a very popular but not typical way for students to spend spring break. That's why when Slye heard about the program, she considered it an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

"I feel like it is important so I can be an active citizen and make sure I am giving back to the community as I am growing," Slye said.

She said her family approves of her choice to spend her spring break in a different way.

"They are really proud of me for coming out and helping instead of just staying home or going to the beach and stuff," she said as she painted the wall of the agency's office.

However many of her friends found it strange that she chose to toil at community service instead of taking a much-needed break.

"My friends are like 'why did you do this' and I am like 'I am just different and I like to do different stuff some times'," Slye said.

Slye also said volunteering on such a project is not just making a difference in the community but is also helping to make her a better person.

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