“Not only do students come back from alternative breaks inspired to learn more, they gain reference points about an issue that are founded in empathy,” says Sophia Richter, student co-chair of the alternative breaks program at Alma College.
No classes are held during fall recess from Oct. 15-18. While some students take the mid-term opportunity to relax or travel home, others trek to destinations around Michigan in order to volunteer their time as part of the alternative breaks program.
Alma: No. 1 In Nation in Campus Participation
Alternative breaks offer students the opportunity to spend time in service to others, says Sallie Scheide, a staff advisor in the Center for Student Opportunity. Such service usually occurs in relation to issues with the environment, homelessness, education, hunger, health, animal welfare, disaster recovery and disabilities.
Similar programs are in place for the winter (Dec. 17-Jan. 7) and spring (Feb. 25-March 4) breaks. Due to the longer time frame of the winter and spring breaks, there are opportunities for students to travel outside of the state as well.
Alma College ranks number one in the nation for the percentage of students — 13.7 percent —that participate 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.
Students Experience Something Eye-opening
“Alma College students are very willing to take advantage of the Alternative Break opportunities for serving and learning, thus giving the college an impressive percentage of campus participation,” says Scheide.
According to Scheide, the program held its first alternative break in 2003. Since then, the program has experienced continued growth and popularity.
“Alternative breaks is a very uniting program,” says Annika Gurrola, a junior from Spring, Texas, and alternative breaks co-chair. “Each year, new students from different classes, hometowns and majors choose to spend a fraction of their time off from classes volunteering. It’s great as a co-chair to help students experience something eye-opening with people who they might not usually interact with.”
Alma College Alternative Breaks: Oct. 14-18
Children with Special Needs—The Fowler Center, Mayville (Oct. 14-16)
Participants assist in facilitating the activities of the weekend camp. In addition, help may be requested for the maintenance and needs of the horse barn and kitchen.
Environmental Stewardship—Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Oct. 15-16)
Volunteers aid in maintaining the park.
Hunger Issues—Greater Lansing Food Bank, Lansing (Oct. 15 and 17)
Volunteers sort food items in the warehouse.
Urban Farming—The Gleaning, Battle Creek (Oct. 16)
Participants glean and prepare the fields for winter.
Equine Therapy—HopeWell Ranch, Weidman (Oct. 18)
Volunteers assist with ranch maintenance.