Hanging out with friends and spending time with faculty are standard events for the majority of students during academic breaks. However, for those involved in the Alternative Seasonal Breaks (ASB) program, break takes on a new meaning.
Alternative Seasonal Breaks is a student-run volunteer organization of the University YMCA. It provides students with the opportunity to serve communities all around the country during fall, winter, spring and summer breaks. Recently, ASB added six new trips for Spring Break 2016. On these trips, students learn about environmental and social justice issues affecting the communities that they are serving.
“Before, environmental issues weren’t that important to me, maybe because I didn’t see them firsthand,” said Lorena Munoz, junior in LAS, who went on a trip last spring. “But working as a team (on this trip) literally opened my eyes to what’s going on.”
Munoz went to the Hidden River in Horse Cave, Kentucky. While on the trip, she and her team worked throughout the day to clean of debris saturating the surrounding and interior of the cave.
Before leaving for the trip, Munoz and her group began learning about the pollution issues while still on campus.
ASB provided weekly meetings, where they discussed current environmental realities about the Hidden River Cave.
Serving locally not only prepares students for their AB trip, but it also provides a platform for students to continue service when they come back to campus.
Since 1989, the Alternative Seasonal Breaks program has been connecting students to the values of community volunteers through service-oriented trips. The program was started by a group of Y student leaders who spent one of their breaks living among Central American refugees living under de facto martial law in Brownsville, Texas.
Twenty-seven years later, the program continues to expand, now offering many service-oriented trips, educating student leaders in global humanities, environmental, and social justice centered causes.
To many students involved in Alternative Seasonal Breaks, it’s not just about the trip. Upon return to campus, students often come back to serve their communities locally and continue to educate themselves about the issues they have learned on their trip.
Sana Singh, senior in LAS and co-director of ASB, said she prides the organization’s emphasis on education. Singh said she was motivated to take on the co-director position because she feld that ASB transformed her. Her experience on ASB trips taught her about alleviating poverty and homelessness, which showed her the power of volunteering.
Students involved in ASB branch out and learn more broadly, serving while gaining leadership skills and meeting new people. ASB continues to be a Y student program that has given many students transformational experiences and invaluable leadership skills that stay with them for a lifetime.