Alternative Breaks: 10 Years, 28,000 Service Hours
Service over self.
For the past 10 years, many Alma College students have voluntarily devoted their academic breaks to serving others while learning about social issues and experiencing local culture.
Since the first trip in 2003 to build a Habitat for Humanity home in Boca Raton, more than 940 Alma College students have volunteered for the Alternative Breaks Program, performing more than 28,000 hours of service with 31 service partners.
Students build a Habitat for Humanity home in Punta Gorda, Fla.
In most cases, the students choose to spend their weeklong winter break serving individuals and communities in need, such as families who lost their homes in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana or the urban homeless at soup kitchens in Washington, D.C.
“Alternative Breaks is a national movement on college and university campuses that has grown through word-of-mouth by students eager to do something meaningful on their academic breaks,” says Sallie Scheide, assistant director of the Center for Responsible Leadership.
“These are diverse opportunities for students that broaden their educational experience outside of the classroom and inspire lifelong active citizenship,” says Scheide. “Students serve, learn about social issues and then return to apply their enthusiasm for serving others in their local communities.”
Last year, Alma College ranked third in the nation in the percentage of students — 8.2 percent — that participated in alternative break service trips, according to Break Away, the national organization that supports the development of alternative break experiences that inspire lifelong active citizenship. During 2011-12, Alma students provided disaster relief, built affordable homes, planned activities for terminally ill children, constructed wheelchair ramps, worked on a Native American reservation and assisted in after-school programs.
“The most impactful experiences are those that take students into cross-cultural situations, such as the Once Upon a Time experience that immerses students in the Cherokee and Appalachian cultures in eastern Tennessee, or Project Puente, an immigration immersion experience on the Mexico-Texas border in El Paso,” says Scheide.
Students provide disaster relief in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Among the most popular trips are those that are hands-on, like disaster relief and Habitat building projects, as well as projects working with youth and children, environmental stewardship, hunger and homelessness.
“Our intent is for students to look at the social issues before they leave campus,” says Scheide.
Alma College has created several service partnerships through the years, such as with Habitat for Humanity and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which have helped grow the community service program from the single 15-student group in 2003 to now offering more than 10 service trips annually with around 100 student participants.
Multiple opportunities exist this year for Alma students. Four short-term Alternative Break trips are planned for Oct. 17-19, with weeklong trips planned for Dec. 15-22 and Feb. 24-March 2.
Fall Break Service Opportunities: October 17-19, 2012
• Urban Poverty-Hunger and Homelessness (faith based), Detroit.
Students will prepare and serve meals, sort clothing and greet guests at Open Door Ministry, an outreach for the homeless and those who cannot afford food at Detroit’s Fort Street Presbyterian Church.
• Junior Achievement, Lansing.
Organized by Alma College graduate Amanda Cruickshank, volunteers will present the “JA in a Day” program at Cumberland Elementary School in Lansing. Junior Achievement (JA) empowers young people to own their economic success.
• Interfaith Dialogue and Service, Faith Communities’ Response to Hunger, Grand Rapids.
Students will work at food kitchens across Grand Rapids and find inspiration for social justice during visits to a Jewish synagogue, a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu temple, a Baha’i community, a Muslim mosque and a Christian church.
• College Positive Volunteers, Gratiot County.
Volunteers will reach out to local Gratiot County high school youth to take steps toward attending college.
Posted: Fri, September 14th, 2012 at 10:06AM