Howard student in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

It’s a 20-year tradition for students of Howard University: Skip the spring-break beach trips—and, really, any “break” at all—and spend a week volunteering in communities in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

This year more than 400 students participating in the Washington, D.C., HBCU’s Alternative Spring Break program embarked on service projects in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, D.C., Memphis, Tenn., and Haiti. What did they do? Whatever local schools and organizations needed. Teams took on everything from tutoring to dental-hygiene workshops to anti-sex-trafficking advocacy work.

“I actually had fun standing in solidarity with people I have never met and affirming their humanity and values,” Brandi Montgomery, a freshman who volunteered in Memphis, wrote in a blog dedicated to chronicling the experience. “It has made me value life more and encouraged me to make a change. I have learned life lessons that I will carry into my future.”

Check out photos of the students who volunteered in Detroit and Haiti.

Howard student in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

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From March 8-14, nearly 400 Howard students volunteered in communities across the country, like Detroit, as seen here, and in Haiti.

Howard students in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

The students’ work added up to more than 16,000 hours of service.

Howard students in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

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Working with local organizations and schools, Howard students tackled issues including gun control, homelessness and illiteracy.

Howard student in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

Students also focused on education and human rights.

Howard student in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

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Howard’s Alternative Spring Break program is designed to engage students in activities that reflect the school’s “truth and service” motto.

Howard students in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

In Detroit, Howard students tutored in reading comprehension, college prep and writing; participated in community-service projects; and mentored children.

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Howard student in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

The students also spent some time helping out at Head Start centers.

Howard student in Detroit (courtesy of Freedom Murphy)

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The students who volunteered in Detroit began their days at 5:30 a.m. and spent their nights on air mattresses in the gymnasium of a church, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Howard student in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

The program expanded to the Caribbean after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Howard students in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

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In Haiti, students conducted dental-hygiene workshops, hearing tests and basic health trainings, and more.

Howard students in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria A. Walker)

The Alternative Spring Break aims to help the targeted communities and to foster a spirit of service and leadership among Howard students.

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Howard students in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

The program is coordinated through Howard’s Office of the Dean of the Chapel, with significant institutional support from the Office of the President.

Howard students in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

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The ASB program also relies on donations from Howard alumni, students, staff, faculty and residents of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Howard student in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

“Each year the goals have been to respond to the needs of communities through activism and service, to develop leadership skills among students, and to help students critically reflect on how they can positively impact those around them through service and their careers,” the Rev. Bernard Richardson, dean of the Office of the Chapel, told the Washington Post.

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Howard students in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

Read students’ own accounts of their experiences here.

Howard students in Haiti (courtesy of Victoria M. Walker)

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Follow Howard Alternative Spring Break on Twitter.

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