Alternative Spring Break team posing next to the finished planter boxes that they built at Stone Soup.

For eight years and counting Fresno State has offered its students a fun and priceless learning experience through  Alternative Spring Break (ASB). Through this program, students at California State University, Fresno devote their spring break to the Fresno community by working towards a chosen organization’s goals and objectives and working on meaningful service projects. This year Alternative Spring Break teamed up with three organizations: the Ronald McDonald House, Scout Island, and Stone Soup.

The Ronald McDonald House provides a home to the families of children who are “facing a serious medical crisis” and they “believe that when a child is hospitalized the love and support of family is as powerful as the strongest medicine prescribed,” as is shared on their website. The ASB team that went to this site had the opportunity to contribute to the goals of this organization by cooking for the families and hosting a carnival on their last day.

At Scout Island, people can “experience nature through hands-on activities specifically designed to meet California Education Standards and to enhance your school’s curriculum.” The ASB team that went to this site had the opportunity to beautify the river and work on other projects.

Stone Soup Fresno works towards “nurturing leadership that will create positive change for Southeast Asian refugee families”. The ASB team that went to this site had the chance to contribute to its mission by leading and facilitating a S.T.E.M Camp.


S.T.E.M. Camp kids working on activities.

The ASB team that I joined worked with Stone Soup Fresno. Stone Soup Fresno held its first S.T.E.M. Camp this year during spring break, March 21-24, 2016. Before the actual day of the camp we spent time in the pre-service meeting. In the pre-service meeting we had the opportunity to thoroughly go over the activities and games for our expected age group and we also had the opportunity to bond as a team. During camp we facilitated cool experiments for kids from third grade to sixth grade. The activities and experiments included Hmong culture story quilts, the egg drop experiment to show gravity, ramp marbles to demonstrate speed, building bridges as part of engineering, floating structures, and density towers, all pertaining to and teaching these intelligent kids science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. David Yang, an instructor from Fresno City College from the Division of Math, Science, and Engineering, also lead experiments with hover boards and rockets. It was evident how much fun the kids had constructing their own rockets and measuring their distance as they soared through the air. Though the experiments did enrich the kids knowledge, I personally enjoyed the Hmong culture story quilts since they taught me the many stories of struggle and strength in the Hmong culture.

From left to right: Alma Alvizar, Kamal Atluri, and Mala Singh cover the irrigation system to start building the planter boxes.

We spent the morning putting our brains to work and in the afternoon we put our muscles to work on our service project. Our goal was to build planter boxes next to the children’s playground at Stone Soup Fresno. The entire ASB team and I worked on digging a trench for an irrigation system that would eventually supply water to the plants inside the planter boxes. We were able to complete our goal and walk away with the knowledge of how to build an irrigation system, use a power drill, and also walk away with a we-can-do-everything attitude! Thanks to guidance of Stone Soup’s Executive Director Lowell J. Ens, we successfully finished our service project. It is truly unbelievable how much work can be done in three days. The four consecutive days spent at Stone Soup during my spring break will be forever cherished as they taught me teamwork and how everyone is a vital component to the community by providing their knowledge or helping in any other form. I am so grateful that I have been a part of the program for the second year in a row. In both years I met some of the most kindhearted individuals and it was awe-inspiring working with them in the pre-service meetings, on the actual days, and on the service project. The most valuable thing I took from this experience is seeing how one can use their skills and abilities to help the community and its members.

From left to right: David Yang, Kala Bommannagari, Selina Santos, Dalicia Torrecilla, Mala Singh, Ramiro Merino, Catherine Mueller, Kamal Atluri, Alma Alvizar, Lowell Ens, Ramya Nimmagadda, and Marisa Gutierrez.

Of course these four days would have not been as easygoing and fun without our advisor Marina Aguilar, Team Leader Ramiro Merino, S.T.E.M Camp organizer Ludie Olenchalk, Fresno City College Math Instructor David Yang, and Stone Soup’s Executive Director Lowell J. Ens.

Do you want to be part of the change?

To learn more about S.T.E.M Camp and what the kids think about the Fresno State lead program visit this link:

To learn more about Alternative Spring Break click on their link:


~Ambassador Alma