Rooted in the Colleges’ longstanding tradition of service, HWS Alternative Spring Break (ASB) 2015 featured both local and out-of-state programs that provided student-volunteers with opportunities focused on important issues such as elementary education, conservation and migrant communities.
“Each year, Alternative Spring Break serves as a wonderful outlet for students to connect and engage with new communities and organizations in deeply meaningful ways,” says Katie Flowers, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL). “Students not only have the chance to make a real impact through service and engagement, but also participate in deep reflection to better understand their own experiences and the important issues connected with each of the programs.”
Held during the week of March 15, the Colleges’ 2015 ASB programs included: education-focused service work at the Mariam Boyd Elementary School in Warrenton, N.C.; conservation efforts at Pocahontas State Park in Virginia; and local volunteer work with adult program leaders from Rural & Migrant Ministry in Lyons, N.Y. The Mariam Boyd program was led by CCESL Assistant Director Jeremy Wattles and the Virginia trip was facilitated by Pete Fiannaca of HWS Residential Education.
Rebecca Czajkowski ’18, who went on Mariam Boyd ASB trip, said her time at the elementary school was an amazing service-learning experience.
“Within the first day of being in the classroom my teachers took me under their wings and I instantaneously fell in love with working with the little kids,” Czajkowski said. “This isn’t something I’ll forget and I can’t wait to come back and see the children’s progress!”
At the Mariam Boyd program, students volunteer at a rural elementary school in a variety of capacities, including tutoring, assisting with reading and math, and helping with general duties in the classroom. Students prepare crafts and activities for children in an afterschool program run by a local church, which serves as the host site for the volunteers.
“My trip to Marian Boyd Elementary was one of the most formative educational experiences I’ve ever had,” said Stephanie Kenific ’17. “Spending so much time with a small group of younger children was so wonderful for me, because I could get closer to them. I felt such an intense connection with the students, especially because I felt I was in a unique perspective to understand them and their lives. It was so incredibly powerful to me.”
Students who also joined the Marian Boyd program include: Isa Akerfeldt-Howard ’18, Madeline Balman ’16, Natalie Bishop ’18, Jane Dowling ’18, Tzipora Glaser ’18, Duncan Lilley ’17, Danielle Mueller ’16 and Alexis Yost ’18.
For students interested in immigration and food production issues, the ASB program in Lyons gave students the chance to see how the ministry is advocating for social change on behalf of migrant farm workers in New York. Student volunteers engaged with workers from South and Central American countries, examining the power and privilege dynamics among large agribusinesses and rural workers.
Participants of the trip to Pocahontas State Park include: Michael Conroy ’18, Michelle Gomez ’16, Graham Hughes ’16, Joshua Martin ’18, Kelsey McElwain ’17; international exchange student Seo-Hae “Denice” Moon, of South Korea; Shivam Tewari ’18, Hannah Wood ’18 and Jin Young Yoo.
Just outside of Richmond, Va., students worked on various conservation related projects in the state park. During past trips, students have cleared land for nature trails, installed drainage systems, built bridges and removed fishing piers. Students stay in a lodge and prepare co-op style dinners, with nightly reflections held after meals.
The students involved in the Lyons program are Gemyra Greggs ’18, Marisela Palafox ’18 and Samantha Bowers ’17.
In past years, Alternative Spring Break programs have included: the “Wake the Farm” experience at Three Swallows Farm in Ithaca, N.Y., as well as experiences facilitated through Greater D.C. Cares, Volunteer Fairfax, VolunteerMatch, One Brick, NYCares, and Volunteernyc.
At HWS, Alternative Breaks are an opportunity for students to travel off campus (usually), do service work together, and to reflect more deeply on themselves and societal issues that face us. Being with a group of students focused on performing service and reflecting on that work can be one of the most meaningful experiences one can have. Each program includes a reflective component, often with readings and at times with an associated Readers College or some other credit bearing opportunity.
There are also at times opportunities for Civic Leadership by helping to organize and lead the trips as well as becoming involved on campus or on site with policy issues that are encountered on the trip. While traditionally occurring during Spring Break, some trips have occurred at other times.
For more information, visit: http://www.hws.edu/academics/service/alternative_breaks.aspx