GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Alternative spring breakers are hard at work in South Mississippi this week.
Rather than spending their break on a beach somewhere, hundreds of motivated college students signed-up for ongoing hurricane relief projects. Two of the visiting teams are from Hamilton College in New York and Winthrop University in South Carolina.
Although they could be soaking up the sun this week, these young people are instead getting covered with mud and sweat while helping clear overgrown lots in North Gulfport. It's hard work in a steady rain. No beach umbrellas or beer kegs for this college crowd.
"We just want to make a positive difference for spring break. Rather than getting wasted and doing the typical college thing, we're trying to make a difference here," said Brie Hunt from Winthrop University.
They'll spend the next week clearing lots and painting houses.
Kevin Graepel attends Hamilton College. "Last spring break I pretty much sat at home and watched bad television, particularly Jerry Springer. So, I figured this year I'd come down to Mississippi and do something a little bit more productive," he said.
"Well, we have two weeks off and I decided that's a really long time just to sit at home doing nothing. So, I might as well help somebody else out while I have the time," said Emma Domby from Hamilton.
Battling stubborn stumps helps build teamwork.
"Oh, a little bit. It's wiggling!" yelled one of the guys, trying to pry loose the stump.
For some, this is their second post-Katrina assignment.
"Last year, my high school went down to New Orleans and helped out with Habitat for Humanity. And we only went a couple of days. So, I figured a whole week would be even better," said Hamilton College student Andrew Menges.
"We send out trips all over the southern United States. So between this week and next week, our two spring break weeks, we have nine trips going out," said Mary Phillips from Hamilton.
These young volunteers paid their own way to give of themselves, knowing they're missing out on more traditional spring break activities.
"Well, this is my senior year actually. And while my other friends are partying in Miami, I decided just to give back to the community. I heard some of the stories about Katrina and how it affected down here and so I just wanted to lend a helping hand," said Winthrop University student Alton Murray.
The student volunteers stay at area churches during their spring break. They're getting their work assignments through Hands On Gulf Coast, the recovery team that's been active in our area since the hurricane.