Howard University students travel to Niagara Falls for community service

Mar. 6—Plenty of college students go traveling on their spring breaks, but not many spend that time helping others.

Around 45 students from Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington D.C., are spending their spring break in Western New York to perform acts of community service. The school's annual Alternative Spring Break program has them partner with schools, after-school programs, food pantries and Habitat for Humanity Buffalo to serve the community.

The students, who arrived in town this past Saturday, are in the area through Saturday. It's the first time the program has come to the Western New York region with Howard students taking part in programs at local schools, including Harvey Austin Elementary School, South Buffalo Charter School, Westminster Community Charter School, and Health Sciences Charter School.

Alexandria Sorrell, a junior health science major who was one of the site coordinators, said their work in schools included tutoring, mentoring and reading to kids.

"They feel like they're definitely making an impact and then people are leaving an impact on them as well," Sorrell said of the Howard participants. "Everyone that we've been working with has a story."

Gloria Dolson, whose granddaughter JaNesha Peay attends Howard, helped organize a luncheon Wednesday afternoon at Mount Erie Baptist Church where the students got to meet local leaders like County Legislator Jeffrey Elder, Mayor Robert Restaino, Niagara Falls School District Superintendent Mark Laurrie, among others. Peay wanted them to make sure they were introduced to the Black history around Niagara Falls.

A long-standing community volunteer, Dolson was impressed with how the students have gone out into the community to help others.

"Sometimes by being on the same level as another young person, you can understand what they're going through," Dolton said, "You can be such an inspiration for them."

On Friday, the students will serve at the Community Health Center of Niagara on Highland Avenue and visit New Hope Baptist Church on Buffalo Avenue.