When you think of Spring Break, what first comes to mind? Groggily rolling out of bed at 1pm? Taking a road trip with friends or flying hours to see family? Red solo cups and loud music? Nights you wish you could remember more clearly that you actually do? How about preparing and distributing hundreds of meals? Learning about urban farming and community building? Learning about immigration and putting a face to the political fervor? Have your spring breaks ever include inspiring, important conversations with other college students that stick with you for years? Would you like them to? If so, then you might be interested in hanging out with the Alternative Spring Break participants from the Thayne Center.
Every year, students from the Thayne Center embark on ambitious trips aimed at addressing the root causes of community identified needs. From directly serving people with inadequate housing in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood to playing with dogs, cats, and pot belly pigs at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT, your fellow students have been learning about how they can make a difference. They have addressed issues like homelessness, hunger, immigration, Native American rights, environmental preservation, and many others. From the moment they apply for Alt Breaks, students learn what it means to be an active citizen, both on their trips and in their own communities.
While we partner with organizations outside of Utah like Glide in San Francisco, Border Angels in San Diego, or Solid Ground in Seattle, the ultimate goal of Alternative Spring Breaks is to get more involved in these same issues here in Utah. Through pre and post-trip service opportunities aligned with their trips’ main subject, Alt Breakers are able to make connections between similar issues and how they are addressed in different settings. Every night, after engaging in service or exploring the cities they’re visiting (all work and no play makes for a rough break, ya know!), these groups of ten to twelve students gather to talk about what they did, saw, thought, and felt. By reflecting on what they do each day, Alt Breakers get to see other peoples’ perspectives and learn more about themselves.
It might seem like a tall order, fitting all of this awesomeness into one week, but I can say from personal experience that the spring breaks I spent as an Alt Breaker were the most fulfilling and recharging breaks ever. I think this is because of two main reasons. First, I made new friends! I felt much more comfortable in college when I had other people to talk to about Alt Break stuff, and about just regular life stuff too. Second, I was able to apply the things I learned on my Alt Break to the classes I was taking. While the specific subject area wasn’t directly applicable, learning about real-world issues, and learning to get along with a group of other students in unfamiliar situations gave me a lot of confidence. Not only did I feel like I could make a difference in my communities, but I also could tell I was more effective and committed to my own goals.
Committing to dedicate your spring break might seem like a lot of work, and sure, to a certain extent it really is. But the experiences students have on Alternative Breaks are some of the most memorable, most meaningful, and most important. I highly encourage every SLCC student to break away from the expected and break into Alternative Spring Breaks!
Brandon Devlin is the Service Leadership Coordinator in the Thayne Center for Service and Learning at Salt Lake Community College
Check out our Spring 2017 trips