With February quickly approaching, thoughts of what to do for spring break are starting to pop up in every student’s mind. One thing that many do not consider is to spend their time serving those who don’t get a choice to go home or travel to an island.
Alternative Spring Break is a national program implemented at hundreds of colleges that sends students across the United States and around the world on service project trips. These trips are organized to be eye-opening to all participants, and the main goal is to acknowledge and assist those who suffer from devastating issues every day.
There are two different types of Alternative Break in 2016: three are service projects through the Community Service Organization (the national program breaks) and one through the housing department.
Through the housing department, a group of about 20 students will travel to Atlanta, Georgia, and to Montgomery and Selma, Alabama, to explore the Civil Rights movement and connect their findings to present-day. It is a unique trip that is being funded by grant.
At ETSU, the program is small, though it has been in progress for more than 20 years. ETSU has high hopes of growing it into a prominent, sought-after program.
For the upcoming spring break, March 7 through 11, 24 students are signed on to take part in Alternative Spring Break.
Those 24 will be split between three different sites, each addressing different issues: Homelessness and Urban Poverty in Washington, D.C., Health and Urban Poverty in Atlanta, Georgia, and Health and Youth Development in Eustis, Florida.
This year, Rachel Robertson, community service programs assistant, has been working closely with the Alternative Breaks Leadership Team that prepared and organized the sites. These students will get in contact with the organizations for the service trips and work closely to decide the best options for the overall logistics of the trip.
Alternative Breaks are meant to be inexpensive, because they aren’t supposed to be lavish vacations. Cost ranges from $75 to $250, and that includes transportation, most meals and the activities performed while on site.
While on the trip, students will take part in some type of reflection, whether it’s journaling or openly discussing with others the experiences of the day.
Kelsey King-Hook is a senior who has participated in three alternative Spring Breaks. This year, she will be one of two site leaders at the Florida location. King-Hook is a microbiology major with medical school aspirations. She originally went into this trip excited to learn about medical conditions but came out with more than she bargained for.
“I got close to the kids and their families, so it was a very emotional experience that I wasn’t expecting,” King-Hook said. “I got out of it a lot more than I thought, and it wasn’t just volunteer hours.”
Joy Fulkerson, coordinator of community service since 1999, agrees with King-Hook that Alternative Break is more than just an opportunity for service hours.
“I think it [service] can clarify a career choice or a calling,” Fulkerson said. “If every student took this opportunity at least once in their four years here, it can really be life-changing.”