Willamette volunteers head across country for service during Spring Break

Willamette students, faculty and staff are traveling to Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland and other locations in Oregon during spring break to engage in service and learn about issues like immigration, homelessness and human trafficking.

Through the student-led Take a Break program, March 20-27, 51 students and five advisors will volunteer in a diverse group of communities while examining a wide variety of social issues.

Participants have the opportunity to work alongside their peers and help communities in need while broadening their world view.

They also demonstrate Willamette's continued commitment to service learning and civic engagement. The university is one of only six colleges and universities nationwide to receive the 2009 Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Presidential Award.

This year's Take a Break trips are:

Chicago: This group will explore the complex intersection of inequality, immigration and urban life by volunteering at organizations that work with youths and diverse communities.

Los Angeles: The U.S. is among the top three destination points for victims of human trafficking, and Los Angeles is one of the top three entry cities. This group will serve with trafficking prevention organizations.

Portland: This group will explore the complexities of homelessness in Salem and Portland, focusing specifically on LGBTQ youth, by volunteering for organizations that work with this demographic.

Immigration Northwest: To explore the people, policies and politics that influence and shape migration from Latin America to the U.S., this group will serve at area organizations that address immigration.

During winter break, an additional 12 students and two advisors visited New Orleans to help rebuild the lives and homes that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.