Seven Sites, Seven Issues, Seven Ways for Students to Serve
Alma’s popular Alternative Break trips this year offer seven locations with seven issues and seven ways to serve generously. These days many Alma students prefer to spend their Winter Term break week providing national service rather than relaxing or partying in warm climates.
Nearly 100 Alma College students and staff have plans to travel by bus, van, train and plane to engage in service, to learn about social issues and to experience new cultures. The destinations include Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Kentucky and Chicago. The issues are affordable housing, developmentally disabled citizens, environmental maintenance, hurricane relief, faith-based support in disasters, urban response to social justice issues and youth and poverty.
Since Alma students organized one alternative break trip four years ago, the popularity of community service has caused Alma College to create more project-oriented trips. This year, the trips in Louisiana and Mississippi are focused on the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina.
The tradition of student-organized and student-lead trips began with the first alternative break in 2003 when then-seniors Susan Kattula and LeAnn Vilmann took a group of students to Boca Raton, Fla., to work with a local Habitat For Humanity chapter. The first trip had a waiting list of student volunteers; despite two trips the next year, the list grew longer.
Students coming to college with volunteerism ingrained and the subsidized costs of Alma trips could be factors in the growing popularity of alternative breaks, according to Sallie Scheide, Alma's Discovering Vocation assistant director. "The national phenomenon of college students devoting their break to volunteer service has been growing in popularity. We are able to offer a variety of types of service at relatively low participation fees. The subsidy of the program by Discovering Vocation is keeping these experiences affordable."
Discovering Vocation: The Lily Project at Alma College pays the majority of the travel fees and provides for one non-work related activity during the break. Housing is usually provided by the host service organizations or churches. Students are the leaders of the trips responsible for recruiting volunteers, planning details and organizing pre- and post-trip activities. How large the annual program grows is dependent on the number of students willing to volunteer and the staff willing to accompany and supervise the students.
"Interest and support from students and our staff are key factors. If we know of students willing to be leaders and staff that are willing to be advisors, we will have the variety of choices," Scheide says.
Last year, softball player Julie Lee was excluded from the break trips due to spring training in Florida taking place at the same time, so she created her own volunteer opportunity. Lee organized an Alternative Summer Break in June for students and one advisor to volunteer at Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, Fla., a camp for children with serious illnesses.
Stories and photos of the five trips for the 2005 Alternative Breaks can be found at http://www.alma.edu/news/releases/A_break.
Posted: Wed, February 8th, 2006 at 10:23AM