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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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ASBO Brings Students Together to Help Others

Brian Antono got chills down his spine when he saw the remains of a lone, empty house on the devastated beaches of Galveston, Texas. last spring. Only the back wall remained, strung with family portraits depicting lives in a destructed house that is no longer a home.’

Antono, a senior chemistry major and now President of Stony Brook University’s Alternative Spring Break Outreach, will venture next week to extreme flood-hit Atlanta. He, along with the organization, will do this not only with a vision, but also with the prospect of expansion due to their recent $7,500 community service grant.

Earlier this month, ASBO was awarded $7,500 in grant money following their honorable mention as a part of The Newman’s Own Foundation Campus Community Service Challenge. Newman’s Own Foundation announced the results of the grant competition at the America East Conference. Newman’s Own, Inc. was the title sponsor of the combined basketball tournament.

‘ASBO is extremely unique in the quality of the organization itself,’ said’ Jeff Barnett, associate dean of students. ‘Not only are they doing significant work in the community, but as an organization they are truly sustainable.’

The top three prizes went to organizations affiliated with 501(c)(3) nonprofits from the University of Vermont, University of Hartford and University of Maine, respectively. ASBO is affiliated with the SUNY Research Foundation. Newman’s Own Foundation decided to increase all honorable mention prizes of $5,000 by 50 percent. As a result, ASBO returned with the $7,500 total.

According to official rules, the competition was launched to ‘recognize and honor student groups that are making the world a better place through demonstrated commitment to community service.’ One organization from each University participating in the America East tournament was selected by respective university officials to participate in the challenge.

In a letter of support to the selection committee, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. noted the several mission trips to hurricane devastated locations since the organization’s inception in 2005. The organization was founded following a Student-Faculty-Staff Retreat titled ‘Local Exchange for Global Change.’

‘Each wall painted and each fastened board have become more than the mere acts themselves, connecting all to the larger principles and purpose of civic action,’ Stanley wrote. ‘What is more important to any university, are the myriad of opportunities this program presents for students to engage with their own learning and development.’

Dean of Students Jerrold Stein echoed Stanley’s sentiments in his letter of support. ‘Year after year the program attracts dedicated student leaders, in fact more than they could accommodate, who realize the need to get involved, take action and give back to the community,’ Stein wrote. He added later, ‘ASBO is a student-developed, student-run community service organization whose mission is to promote critical thinking, social action and civic engagement by combining education, reflection and direct service.’

Antono, who described the mission trip as an emotional rollercoaster, said the grant will fund his vision of expansion and further university funding. ‘We’re still a young organization,’ he said. ‘Hopefully this grant shows the University that we are not only ready to expand, but also that we are an asset.’

He added that he wishes more students could share in this opportunity with the help of university funding. ‘We see things most people never see in their life,’ Antono said. ‘I want to share that feeling with everyone else.’

Although ASBO is traveling to Atlanta next week, the organization conducted mission trips the last four years to other locations. From 2006 to 2008, the organization traveled to New Orleans to assist in the rebuilding of the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina. In the spring of 2009, ASBO traveled to Galveston.

According to Antono, there are two main categories of the services that ASBO provides to communities: disaster relief and community building.

The organization-which is composed of approximately 50 people this year-wake at 6 a.m., eat breakfast, make their lunch and then take a bus to the worksite. There, they divide into groups and work approximately eight hours during the day. At night, they enjoy the culture of their worksite. Before an early bedtime, they participate in ‘group reflections,’ discussing their day and sharing their experiences amongst each other.’

ASBO will embark on their seven-day mission trip this Friday, March 26. They will spend a total of approximately 48 hours traveling to and from Stony Brook on a coach bus.
‘ ‘[The trip] is building family within Stony Brook and away from Stony Brook,’ he said reflectively.

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