For several students and staff of East Tennessee State University, spring break was a time to reflect on social issues and ways to create social changes. Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is sponsored annually by The Office of Leadership and Engagement and offers several opportunities for faculty, staff and students to address social issues and participate in educational activities, services and reflective activities.

“I think ASB serves to educate, engage and empower students to take responsibility. It challenges students to evaluate their roles in the community and how their lifestyles and behavior can make an impact on the community,” said Sanjeev Das, the Marketing and Communication Leader for Alternative Spring Break. “When community becomes a priority for students, they begin to see their role in community building.”

Last year, there was a total of 45 participants. There were five destinations available for Alternative Spring Break, but that number increased to seven this year. There are hopes that the number of experiences will continue to increase.

“A total of 65 students, faculty and staff participated this year,” said Das. “I believe everyone got a chance to learn about root issues, gain new perspectives on issues that our communities face, time to think critically about social issues and the opportunity to develop into life-long active citizens.”

Destinations for Alternative Spring Break included: Washington, D.C.; Rainelle, WV; Philadelphia, PA; New Orleans, LA; Huntington, WV; Chavies, KY and Atlanta, GA. The experiences addressed social issues such as: disaster relief, environmental restoration, HIV/AIDS, education, homelessness, healthcare, poverty, youth development, religious pluralism, food insecurity and many more.

“Veterans Advocacy and Accessibility experience could not happen due to a housing problem, so we were left with 7 experiences,” said Das. “Last year there were five destinations, so the numbers have definitely increased. We look forward to exploring more communities serving around several social justice causes in the future.”

The cost of Alternative Spring Break ranges between $150-$300, depending on the experience and destination. The cost of the program includes meals, housing, transportation and service. Large University-owned and rented vans drive participants to their destinations.

“It encourages each of us to look beyond our own self for a moment and see the bigger picture. With multiple levels of involvement, students can connect with non-profit agencies through volunteer placement or join the leadership team,” said Das. “This is a time when participants, site leaders and learning partners come together to explore a social justice issue through service related activities.”

Alternative Spring Break is not the only service program that ETSU has to offer. There are also programs and activities like Volunteer ETSU, Service Saturdays, Holiday Giving and Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week.

To learn more about Alternative Spring Break, visit their website, email or visit SORC Suite B on the lower level of the D.P Culp University Center.