April 20, 2012
By Kayla Green
While you may have spent spring break building sand castles in Cabo or hiking the Front Range, several CSU students added community service to the spring break mix. It's part of the growing interest in alternative breaks from school.
“Alternative Breaks help bridge the gap between communities,” said Adrienne Bouveron, alternative break coordinator. “Higher ed groups can go to a community, serve that community, and help them with their mission by providing extra hands. By helping other communities, you can start to recognize the social issues in your community—we call that the alt. break mission.”
Bouveron, who’s been on three alternative breaks, recently co-led a group of students to Catalina Island, Calif, where the students participated in habitat restoration by removing invasive plant species within the community. In their off-time, students who participated in this trip had the opportunity to snorkel with sharks, hike and kayak, complete a ropes course, and meditate on the beach among other activities.
Even so, Bouveron, who’s a sociology major with minors in environmental affairs and ethnic studies, said her passion for the environment and its connection to social issues is what drew her to the program. The opportunity to discuss various social issues, such as the roles of gender, race and ethnicity in relation to the environment or whether their service was harming or helping the environment, was a unique experience for her.“It’s a community-builder; students make new friends and gain new experiences by stepping out of their comfort zone,” she said.
Jacob Stackhouse couldn’t agree more.
“In a matter of a week, the fact that people’s lives are dramatically changed speaks highly of alternative breaks and the leaders that are brought in to lead the trips,” said Stackhouse, who co-led a trip to Achiote, Panama.
During his time in Panama, Stackhouse helped the community set itself up as a tourist site. The students took tours, learned about the culture, and offered suggestions and input along the way. For Stackhouse, the trip gave him the opportunity to develop his professional skills through organizing group activities, preparing group reflections, and overall planning for the trip.
“I really wanted to experience a different culture and get out of the United States,” he said. “The people of Panama have now touched my heart and I know in the future, I’ll be back. I don’t know if it will be with alt. breaks, but I can guarantee I’ll be back.”
For another student, Chicago, Ill. seemed to be the best fit for an alternative spring break.
“I wanted to lead a trip to open people’s perspectives to the reality that there are different levels of service,” said Brandon Devlin, who co-led the trip to Chicago’s Brother David Darst Center. Devlin’s trip consisted of volunteering at several shelters and teaching students about how a person’s various identities, such as sex, race, and age, are related to oppression.
During the trip, students worked day and night playing with the kids from the shelters, cleaning the restrooms, and tutoring women seeking GEDs as a way to better understand the community’s daily lives. Afterwards, students had the opportunity to explore Chicago during their free time.
“I would highly encourage any student who is considering getting more involved with leadership or service to get involved in alternative breaks, because it’s truly a unique experience. It changes lives,” said Devlin.
Applications for the spring alternative break program are due the fall prior to the trip. For more information, visit the Office of Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement or call (970) 491-1682.