UHV plans new destination for Alternative Spring Break trip

Shelbie Ayala has participated in several volunteering trips and projects through her church, but the University of Houston-Victoria’s fifth annual Alternative Spring Break trip to Biloxi, Miss., will be a completely new experience for her.

Shelbie Ayala

“This will be my first time volunteering outside of my church groups, my first trip with UHV and my first time to leave Texas,” said Ayala, a native of Beeville and a UHV sophomore. “I’m so excited to have the opportunity to bond with my peers and experience new scenery and cultures during this trip.”

Ayala will be one of 11 UHV students taking part in the university’s Alternative Spring Break trip from Saturday to March 23 in Biloxi. The trip lets UHV students volunteer in other communities during the university’s spring break.

For the past four years, UHV students traveled to New Orleans for Alternative Spring Break to spend a week volunteering during the day and exploring the city in the evening. This year, the university will work with Community Collaborations International to volunteer in soup kitchens, environmental restoration projects and house restorations, said Sara Weinstein, UHV student life coordinator.

Sara Weinstein

“We wanted to branch out and offer UHV students some new experiences through the spring break trip,” Weinstein said. “It’s been great to work in New Orleans and see how we can make a difference, but there are other locations that also need help, and Biloxi seemed like a great option.”

The trip is an opportunity for students to learn about the positive impact of volunteering for others and themselves, said Dominic Flores, a San Antonio sophomore who went on the trip to New Orleans last year.

“It was amazing to see how doing even little things to help others can make such a difference in their lives,” Flores said. “I got to see how my work made people smile, and in turn, it helped me feel good about myself, too.”

The 2018 group volunteered by helping out at an animal shelter, renovating houses and cleaning up neighborhoods. When the students were cleaning up trash in one neighborhood, Flores remembered seeing a man bring out his riding lawnmower to cut the grass after the trash was cleared.

“He came up to us and said, ‘This is the kind of thing we need to see in our city. You guys are reminding us that there is hope,’” Flores said. “It was such a great moment to know we could make such a big impact on others.”

Now, as Ayala gets ready to go on this year’s trip, she hopes she can make a similar impact.

“I’ve been raised to have a servant’s heart and do what I can to help others in any situation I can,” she said. “It’s an important part of my faith. Jesus came to serve others, not be served, so I take joy in being able to do the same.”

To learn more about the Alternative Spring Break trip, contact Weinstein at 361-485-4496 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.