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Alternative Breaks trips offer students perspective, growth

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Photo: Robert Mathews / Lanthorn

GVL / Robert Mathews
GVSU Alternative Spring Breaks Park Preservation Group. Top: Andi Wilt, Derek Moretz, Courtney Cave, Emily Rasch. Bottom: Jose Rodriguez, Caleb Scheidel, Sarah Wildt, Amanda Aldapa, Joel Mounts, Bill Kinter, Robert Mathews

As Grand Valley State University students wait anxiously for a Spring Break breather, those involved in the student organization Alternative Breaks are gearing up for a week of service in various locations nationwide.

The Alternative Breaks group aims to promote service-learning through week-long trips across the U.S., and over this year’s March 2-9 Spring Break, volunteers involved in more than 10 different trips, will learn about social and environmental issues, gain leadership experience, and meet new people both nationally and regionally.

This year, trips include one to New Jersey, where students will work in a domestic violence shelter, and another in Florida, where students will help to clean beaches in an effort to help more turtles nest.

Alternative Breaks student leaders host informational nights for prospective students to learn more about the trips throughout the year, and post applications for interested students online in mid-October. On the application forms, students are asked to select up to four issue areas they want to work within, such as youth and foster care and park preservation, and asked to detail why they’d like to get involved.

Once applicants are accepted and assigned to a trip, they’ll go to an orientation where they’ll meet their site leaders and are told their issue and location. The locations are kept secret until orientation so participants will pick trips based on the issues/volunteer work rather than the location.
Garrett Sawyer, vice president of Public Relations for Alternative Breaks, said though service trips are held miles away from GVSU, advocacy doesn’t necessarily stop there.

“Along with making friends and being able to help others and the environment, Alternative Breaks seeks to educate students about the issue so they can promote the issue back on campus and live with that community’s goals in mind,” Sawyer said.
rmclaughlin@lanthorn.com



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