Every year the Student Volunteer Center organizes an Alternative Spring Break trip and every year students come back from a life-changing experience. This year the Student Volunteer Center took 14 students including myself to the gorgeous beach town of Isla Vista, California. Working with the Adopt-A-Block program to clean up and restore the city was an amazing experience we will never forget. Leaving the comfort of our homes to discover a new town while living at Camp Whittier helped us learn new skills and make lasting friendships. Isla Vista is well known as a college party town, but we were able to see a less known side of IV.
Isla Vista is a beautiful town right next University of California Santa Barbara with many gorgeous beaches and parks, but Isla Vista is in a constant battle with property destruction. Compared to the California national average Isla Vista has 46% more property damage! We formulated a plan to help make a change in this statistic and help restore beauty to the town of Isla Vista and it started with the Broken Window Theory. The Broken Window Theory states that maintaining urban environments so that they are well ordered will stop further vandalism and other more serious crime. By partnering with the Adopt-A-Block program we helped restore the city to a well-ordered environment through graffiti removal, park restoration, and beach trash pick-ups making a lasting impact on the community.
We spent a total of six days in Isla Vista volunteering, exploring, and eating great food! Upon Arriving to Isla Vista we showed up and found our lodging at Camp Whittier. Camp Whittier is a 55-acre resident camp surrounded by hiking trails, many wild animals (we saw a lot of wild turkeys), and facilitated by a man we all came to love called Cookie. Our first night we left Camp Whittier to enjoy the famous Free Birds, a burrito place that has a monster burrito that is bigger than your head! The next day we woke up early and started working restoring one of Isla Vista’s many parks right next to the ocean and by the end of the day the Adopt-A-Block was blown away with our progress. Throughout the week we continued to work hard on beach clean ups, trash pick-ups, graffiti removal, and installing a garden irrigation system. After a week of meaningful work we could see the difference we had made and our ASB team formed an unbreakable bond with one another.
After working hard throughout the day we made sure to balance that hard work with fun during the night. We explored all the fine eateries of Santa Barbara from delicious sushi, to peanut butter burgers, and even monster burritos! We danced like the Irish as we visited an Irish Pub in downtown Santa Barbara, played football along Campus Point beach after exploring UCSB, and saw sea lions lounging on buoys in the ocean. Every day we returned to Camp Whittier where we had basketball games, campfires, and played a ton of billiards. All these unique experiences and more helped us explore the culture of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara.
When it was time to return to Santa Cruz we left Isla Vista with many new experiences, formed meaningful friendships, and memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. In addition to many personal growths we also discovered the impact that we can have on a community when we have a strong desire to help. Volunteering for the Adopt-A-Block program was an incredibly rewarding and life-changing experience. I would strongly encourage any UCSC student interested in ASB to apply for next year. You never know what meaningful relationships your will make and it’s an amazing opportunity to get out explore a new place!