Students and professionals join to make a difference in Deloitte's Alternative Spring Break program

Students with a passion for community service, who really want to give back, will experience a different kind of spring break when they join Deloitte LLP professionals as volunteers in underserved communities in a weeklong, expenses-paid, trip to Washington DC and Memphis TN. Students participating in Alternative Spring Break: Maximum Impact: will work side by side with Deloitte professionals, and will have a unique opportunity to form lasting personal and professional relationships.
In Memphis, 25 student volunteers will join professionals from Deloitte and Teach for America from March 20-24 working in classrooms with students at all grade levels who face the challenges of educational inequity. Volunteers will work on projects that range from reading and vocabulary instruction to improving scores on standardized tests and assisting teachers in the classroom from the elementary through high school level. Projects will also include renovations to Memphis-area school facilities.
Deloitte and United Way are coordinating the program in Washington DC from March 12 – 14, where 52 student volunteers are participating in activities that encourage college attendance and help underserved youth succeed in the future workforce. All of these projects are focused on education, and will reach children from pre-school through high school. Volunteers will participate in learning activities at early childhood learning centers and an after-school program; paint murals at a school for students with learning disabilities, speak with students about making the transition to college and the college experience; and engage in discussions about decisions and planning in the college and career exploration process.
Winter Olympic medalist Apolo Anton Ohno delivered the kick off speech for the Maximum Impact program in DC, sharing some of his experience with community service, conveying to student participants that a commitment to service goes hand in hand with high-performance careers and professional achievement.
"Deloitte is very passionate about community involvement," Diane Borhani, national director of campus recruiting at Deloitte said of the Alternative Spring Break program. "It is embedded in our culture and what better way is there to show students who we are, than by working side by side with them. Students see that our professionals are involved outside of their offices, that you can do other things if you pick the right culture and the right employer.
"We began the Alternative Spring Break program four years ago as a way to reach out to students early on, in their first and second years at college, before they apply for internships. Applicants must meet hiring criteria and they must also write an essay that tells what they are passionate about, that reveals their attitudes and values.
"Applications continue to rise. We had approximately 1,400 applications for the 87 spots this year. There is a huge wave of interest. Students are passionate about involvement in their communities. They want to make a difference in the world. 
"The benefits of the program extend to our professional volunteers and to the firm overall," Borhani said. "It re-energizes all of us to make this happen. One Deloitte participant said it was the most proud and motivating experience in her career. The program generates enthusiasm for all of us, and pride to be associated with a firm that will support this kind of effort. Our leadership has supported Maximum Impact through the past four years even through the recession. We are who we say we are."
"We are measuring our success by conversion rates. So far 88 of our Maximum Impact volunteers have joined us as interns or full time employees. Three Teach for America participants from last year's program will join Deloitte in full-time positions; 2 will join as interns." Deloitte plans to hire 5,400 new employees this year, Borhani said.,
Megan Sickles, an audit assistant at Deloitte, participated in the first Alternative Spring Break program in Biloxi MS, two years after the community was damaged by Hurricane Katrina. For Megan the program was an opportunity to help people who really needed help and also a chance to get to know Deloitte professionals. "We helped a radio station owner who was only one area still on the air through the hurricane and who had kept people informed about where to go and what they should do."
"He was still living in a FEMA trailer. His property was covered with debris; an RV was stuck in a stream behind his trailer. We helped to clear the property and get him into better living quarters. He stayed with us, and at the end of the week he put us on the air. It was a shout out, really, about who we were, what we had done.
"Working with Deloitte managers and seeing that they cared, seeing that they were not concerned with just one thing, made such a great first impression on us early on," Sickles said. "Spending that much time with them, we had time to talk and to relate to each other."
Managing a full week of volunteering in two locations is no easy task, but  Deloitte, along with United Way also organizes their IMPACT Day, a national day of service that is a celebration of the organization's year-round commitment to support the community through volunteerism. Nearly 75 percent of Deloitte's people participate. Deloitte's 12th annual IMPACT Day is scheduled for June 10, 2011.
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