(Photo courtesy of South Boston Youth Ambassadors)
While most students spend their spring breaks sleeping in and hanging out with friends, 10 South Boston teens were in Alabama recently helping rebuild communities damaged by tornados last year.
The South Boston Youth Ambassadors traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for their fourth annual community service trip to help affected communities. During their trip, the group volunteered with the United Saints Recovery Project to help clean up debris and repair homes damaged by tornados that rolled through the area last year.
"It was highly essential to the ongoing recovery efforts here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama," said Andrew Anderson, site director for the United Saints Recovery Project's Tuscaloosa office.
Taylor Kimball, a senior at Boston Day and Evening Academy, said she was surprised the people of Tuscaloosa arenít getting more help.
"It's heartbreaking," Kimball said. "Nobody is helping these people except volunteers."
During the week, the Youth Ambassadors cut up and removed fallen tree limbs, helped an elderly man repaint his house, and helped a man whose roof had been damaged get his house at least temporarily removed from the city's demolition list.
"We removed debris from a man named Mr. Mimms' backyard," Kimball said. "He had a gigantic oak tree in his backyard and when the tornado went through it knocked it over.
"His yard looked as though the yards around it had also just thrown up in it," Kimball said. "The house next to him was perfectly fine, and then his house was just, tons of debris in it."
It took the Youth Ambassadors three days to clean up Mimmsí yard and save his house from being demolished, and for Kimball, the experience was especially rewarding.
"It's just the greatest feeling to help somebody out, because he doesn't expect that we're getting anything back from this, but it will just stick with me for a lifetime," Kimball said. "I helped this man keep his home."
The group also helped an elderly man who needed his house painted.
"His house was almost done, so all we had to do was paint," said Jamil Quinones, a sophomore at Boston Green Academ. "I was at the top of the ladder, cleaning [and] painting, it was very rewarding to see the look on his face, the gratitude that he showed us after finishing.
"It felt good at the end of the day to know that we did help someone and make a difference," Quinones added.
While many of their friends spent their spring break relaxing, Quinones and Kimball said they wouldn't have wanted to spend their time off any other way. Kimball even said that she chose the community service trip over the senior trip to the Bahamas many of her friends went on.
"My friends are all talking about their senior trip in the Bahamas," Kimball said. "But me and the other two seniors that went [to Tuscaloosa] will have a week that we'll remember for the rest of our lives."
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.