Students dedicate their Spring Break to helping others around the world

The Alternative Breaks Program in the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement offered the mid-March experience to introduce students to social issues that impact communities in the United States and around the world.

By Kristin Moore '19

More than 50 students dedicated their spring break engaged in a range of social issues across the globe. Sponsored through the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, the Alternative Breaks Program allowed students, faculty and staff to spend a week away from campus to immerse themselves in new communities while working to address pressing domestic and global social issues. Elon’s Alternative Breaks Program is student-led, and driven to introduce students to new communities while working to address these issues.

Participants ventured nationally to the Guyan Valley in West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Columbia, South Carolina. Other students traveled internationally to Los Lagos, Costa Rica and Treasure Beach, Jamaica. Each program was student-led and student-run, with approximately 10 to 15 participants.

“The size of each program is big enough where students can engage with people who are different than them, but also not too big where you walk away from the trip as a tight-knit group and everyone feels their work was valued,” said Imani Henderson co-leader of the Urban Poverty and Inequality program.

Coordinators planned their programs throughout the year, taking in a multitude of responsibilities such as selecting their participants, communicating with their community partner organizations, planning their program itinerary, and leading reflection about their social issue.

The programs this year centered around different social issues such as poverty, inequality, youth rehabilitation, community development and sustainability. Students partner with local organizations in that community to get hands-on experience and immerse themselves in the community they are helping.

"During my time in West Virginia, I had the opportunity to work with Appalachia Service Project to help rebuild homes in Central Appalachia and better understand the true impact of poverty," said Taylor Stuck ‘18 G’20. "While this realization of the impact of poverty was tough, the family we were assisting could not have been more grateful for every moment we had with them. It was truly humbling to interact with a family as giving and caring as they are,” 

The experience of going on an Alternative Breaks trip can be eye-opening for many and open new doors for students. For senior Rebecca Foley, Alternative Breaks provided a new outlook on what she might want to pursue post-graduation.

“This experience has reminded me that I enjoy doing valuable work with my time, which has impacted my job search. I am graduating, and I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do post-grad,” said Foley. “I am not the type of person who is motivated by money or material things. I am searching for work that will be impactful in the lives of others and will have a deeper meaning.”