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Next week, many Penn students are gladly swapping beaches and bikinis for a week of community service.

Students are attending mission trips sponsored by Penn Hillel, Penn Cru and Penn InterVarsity Christian Fellowship instead of opting for customary vacations.

About 60 to 70 students from Penn Cru, Drexel Cru, Penn State’s Ministry and Temple University will be participating in eight days of service projects.

In previous years, students in the program worked in drug rehabilitation centers, beautification projects and approached people in the more impoverished corners of Kensington to discuss their spiritual background and spread the word about local churches’ outreach programs.

For some, the week has a major impact on their outlook on living in Philadelphia.

“[It] really changed the way that I view the city and changed the way I view being a student in the city,” Engineering senior Corey Poggioli said. “It’s just changed me in a lot of ways, and that’s why I’m really excited to do it again.”

Approximately 10 Penn students are attending Penn Hillel’s Alternative Spring Break farming trip to New Orleans, which is sponsored by the Jewish Farm School. They’ll spend one week visiting and volunteering at urban gardens and non-profits outside of the city.

Outside of volunteering, the students will explore New Orleans and discuss food ethics and environmental sustainability. They will also take classes on healthy cooking.

The trip did not take place last spring. However, it was reinstituted this year after students campaigned to get it back.

While not a spring break specific event, the Penn’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship also falls on March 2, over spring break. Approximately 100 students from interVarsity chapters in metropolitan Philadelphia and Delaware will be sent on a variety of service projects related to this year’s theme, homelessness in Philadelphia.

According to Campus Staff Minister Ellen Williams, Jesus, Justice and Poverty is more than just a one day event — it has a lasting impact on students.

“It changed the way I thought about poverty,” Williams said. “There definitely have been students [for whom] it’s changed the way they’ve spend their college career, and it’s changed their career choice.”

Regardless of their religion, students attending mission trips are excited for the upcoming week of service.

“[It] presents me with an awesome opportunity to see what service looks like in an urban setting,” Wharton freshman Tyler Roesler said.

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