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Air Force cadets trade spring break for community service

By: Tony Peck
April 8, 2018 Updated: April 8, 2018 at 4:15 am
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Air Force Academy cadets paint the exterior of a home in Houston, Texas in March, 2018. The cadets were part of the Academy's Alternate Spring Break Program that sends cadets across the country to work with Habitat for Humanity. (Air Force Photo)

A group of Air Force Academy cadets sacrificed its spring break to spend a week working alongside Habitat for Humanity to rebuild and repair homes across the nation.

The academy's 2018 Alternate Spring Break Program last month sent 99 cadet volunteers to nine locations across seven states .

"Cadets do not see this as giving up anything," said sophomore cadet Jacob Caparella.

"Yes, we can spend our time doing other things, but we are all eager to go out to these sites and contribute to the construction of new homes for families."

One group headed south March 23 to spend a 10-day break in Houston, helping residents recover from last year's Hurricane Harvey.

"The academy has been doing this for quite a few years," said senior cadet Candice Roberts, the leader of the Houston group.

"I have been doing it every year I have been here."

The Alternate Spring Break Program began in 1999 and is funded by donors and the academy's Center for Character and Leadership Development.

The voluntary program has grown in popularity since then, with cadets giving 22,000 hours of community service in the past year.

While in Houston, Roberts and a dozen other cadets worked on four homes, she said. The crew salvaged what it could from two flood-damaged homes, cleared debris, painted the exterior of one house and replaced shingles and painted the interior of another.

The cadets in Houston were a small part of the recovery after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coastline last August.

Harvey was the second deadliest U.S. hurricane in terms of direct deaths, causing an estimated $125 billion in damages and flooding over 300,000 structures, according to a 2018 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report.

"One homeowner came to us and told us her story," Roberts said. "Then she worked alongside us as we worked on her house."

Roberts was impressed with the crew she led.

"The best thing about this group is they were all working hard, even on the last day," she said.

"They came here to work, and they absolutely did."

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