Howard University students, many of them soaked from afternoon rains, took to the streets of Washington, D.C. March 6 to raise money to support their efforts to help residents of Haiti and five U.S. cities during their spring break.

The students were part of the WHUR 96.3 Helping Hands radiothon, according to a press release from Howard University, an annual fundraising event which helps send hundreds of students nationwide to help residents in troubled neighborhoods across the globe.

Helping Hands is part of Howard’s yearly Alternative Spring Break. Instead of heading to the beach or the nation’s spring break party spots, more than 350 Howard students will work in Haiti, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans and Washington, D.C. from March 13 to March 19.

The students will English, tutor elementary school students, work on environmental reclamation projects, collect books to fill a public school library, battle illiteracy, fight gun violence, and work with Haitian residents still reeling from the January 2006 hurricane that left tens of thousands homeless.

According to the Howard University release, Kiamsha Tate, 9, and her mother, Lauren Tate, a teacher at Watkins Elementary School in Washington, stopped by WHUR to donate to the program after they heard about the fundraiser on the radio while coming home from church.

Kiamsha donated nearly all of her $4 allowance.

“I want them to have fun and learn new stuff and help people,” she said after handing over her $3.

Out on the streets outside of the Metro station along Georgia Avenue, Brittany Stevenson, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ricardo Noel, 26, of Queens, N.Y., were among the dozens of rain-soaked students dressed in plastic parkas collecting money from passing motorists as part of the “Bucket Brigade.”

Stevenson, who worked against gun violence in Chicago as part of the Alternative Spring Break program last year, will travel to Atlanta, where she and approximately 100 students will prepare elementary school students for upcoming state achievement tests.

“I like doing community service,” Stevenson said, “and after working in Chicago, I can see how much our help is needed,”

WHUR forgoes thousands of dollars in potential funds for itself to put on the radiothon. The station began the effort 2005 when some 500 students went to New Orleans to help after Hurricane Katrina.

“We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” Renee Nash, director of News and Public Affairs at WHUR and one of the staff who put together the radiothon, said in a statement. “You have students who sacrifice their spring break and roll up their sleeves to affect change. As a radio station that cares about the community, we have to do more than talk about it. This is our way to be part of that solution.”

Also helping is Sun Trust Bank, whose representatives man the telephones for call-in donations and tabulate the funds once they come in. Sun Trust has been part of the radiothon since its inception.

“This is one of the contributions that we make to the community,” said AC Cheeseboro, Sun Trust assistant vice president and chair of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Diversity. “It is our responsibility to be part of the community, and being part of the community means we have to help one another.”

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