For 16 years, the Alternative Break program at CSU has been giving students the opportunity to take time out of their academic breaks to help those in need in order to promote social change and justice.
The student-led, service learning trips travel all over the world, with services ranging from helping with sustainability in Denver to helping the homeless in Washington D.C.
“In Alt Breaks, we’re in the business of changing lives and making magic,” said Adrienne Bouveron, student coordinator of Alternative Breaks. “When students are willing to challenge themselves, ready to learn something new and eager to contribute to addressing a social issue, service hardly feels like work. When students are having a cross-cultural experience and among a group of enthusiastic peers, they have a lot of fun.
“When students come back and say, ‘Alt Breaks changed my life’ and they share what they did and learned with others, they inspire more change and that’s the magic right there.”
This year, there are 14 week-long spring break trips and three local weekend trips being offered to students.
“I think it’s imperative for students to go on Alt Break trips because they’re something so different than your average community service or experiences,” said Atisha Morrison, an Alternative Break site leader. “In college, we are all at an advantage to do some incredible things like these trips that will help shape us as servant leaders when we leave college and make the communities we live in a better place.”
Site Leader Miko Flasik has participated in Alternative Break for three years. Her first year trip was to Kanab, Utah with the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no kill animal shelter in the nation, where Flasik spent the week working on tasks such as building trails, cleaning pig pens, playing with dogs,walking cats, as well as spending time discussing the issues behind puppy mills and breed discrimination.
“It is a great experience for students to immerse themselves in a culture and community in Fort Collins and the world,” Flasik said. “It is you and a small group of students who get to help out the local community or farther. When else in college are you going to be able to volunteer a week of time to help someone else out?”
She has also participated in a trip to Arizona, where she volunteered with “No More Deaths”, a humanitarian organization dedicated to helping decrease the amount of deaths that occur in the Sonoran desert due to starvation and dehydration.
“Not only do you get to learn a lot about your service, but you learn about yourself,” Flasik said. “There is a great variety of trips so you can find something you are passionate about, or find out more about something you don’t know a lot about. These trips helped me figure out my old passions, and create new passions. I would encourage everyone to apply because there is a perfect trip out there for everyone.”
Morrison spent her freshman year spring break participating in the 48-hour Homeless Challenge in Washington D.C., volunteering with Community for Creative Non-Violence (CCNV), the nation’s largest transitional homeless shelter that support individuals experiencing homelessness.
Morrison had to sleep on the streets of the nation’s capitol and beg for food for 48 hours straight, as if she were actually homeless.
“I was very apprehensive, not knowing what I was getting myself into but the 48-hour Homeless Challenge was probably one of the best decisions I had made,” Morrison said. “It helped me think about not only what I thought of as home but how I was living my life and determining what was important. The trip really made me become a better person but also become more informed about a certain group of people that is so underrepresented in our society.”
For Alternative Break participant Becky Peters, being sunburned, sweaty and hot was the price she paid working nine hours a day helping with disaster relief, by helping with construction in New Orleans. According to Peters, the memory that stayed with her was the day the group went to where the main levee broke during Hurricane Kartina.
“It was a pretty emotional experience,” Peters said. “When you stood on the bridge, you looked to your right and saw the French Quarter and wealthy area. To your left was the Lower Ninth and St. Bernard’s Parish. The only thing separating them was this body of water and the levees. It was like a legitimate barrier of classes, which was nuts.”
The average cost of the trips range from $50 for local trips to $1,700 for international trips. However, most are only around $500.
For students who need financial help, Alternative Break also offers a grant for students up to $500 for trips, according to Bouveron.
Small group size is one of the unique aspects of Alternative Break. The organization hopes that it would help students know who they are working with, which might lead to meaningful conversations around the service and social issues in which they are immersed.
“Not only do CSU students make new friends and find community through our program but relationships are built with agencies and organizations around the nation,” Bouveron said.
“Students come back and change their major or apply for new positions or jobs that align with their values or support their new-found perspectives gained from their Alt Break experience. Participants and Site Leaders alike have continued volunteering or working with agencies during summers or post-grad because of those relationships.”
Applications for Alternative Breaks are due Tuesday, October 23. Applications to participate in an Alternative Break and to receive a grant can be found at slice.colostate.edu.
Collegian Writer Taylor Pettaway can be reached at email@example.com.