Kernodle Center volunteers aid Hurricane Fiona relief in Puerto Rico during Alternative Break

During the 2023 spring break, 13 Elon student volunteers traveled to Puerto Rico to assist in hurricane relief.

Students assisted in Hurricane Fiona relief during the Spring 2023 Alternative Break trip to Puerto Rico through the Kernodle Center for Civic Life.

In October 2021, Tiffany Huang ’23 spent part of her fall break in Winston-Salem helping combat food insecurity as a part of the Kernodle Center for Civic Life‘s Alternative Break opportunities. The experience was life-changing, Huang said, as it broadened her understanding of service and helping disadvantaged communities.

This year for spring break, Huang served as a student coordinator for the Alternative Break trip to Puerto Rico to support communities still recovering from Hurricane Fiona. Although it was a different locale that brought different responsibilities, the same transformational experiences were on display during the week-long sojourn.

“The most impactful thing I’ve ever done at Elon has been Alternative Breaks,” Huang said. “It’s such a small time commitment but you take so much out of it.”

Alternative Breaks are immersive service experiences designed to introduce students to new communities while working to address pressing domestic and global social issues. Participating in an Alternative Break is a great way to get to know other students, make a positive impact and have a meaningful fall or spring break. For this spring break, two trips were available to students — hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and addressing homelessness in Washington, D.C.

The 13 students who traveled to Puerto Rico partnered with Community Collaborations International, a leading organization supporting the expansion of Alternative Break programs worldwide. During the week-long experience, the students went to an aquaculture farm, helped clear paths for a national park and renovated a hardware store.

Rane Parr ’24 was also a student coordinator for the Puerto Rico Alternative Break and said the experience has made her more understanding of the many cultural differences that exist. Parr’s first Alternative Break trip was in spring 2022 addressing food security in Asheville. As one of the student leaders for this trip, they said it was rewarding to have a say in the learning element of the trip.

“We wanted to bring both service and learning equally to the experience, and we did so by instigating reflections and having participants think about how they can engage deeper with the service and social issues at large,” Parr said.

The reflection portion of Alternative Break is what Huang has found most rewarding. Although it’s important to put in the time to assist those in need during trying times, it is of equal importance to think deeply about how the experience has changed them.

Students assisted in Hurricane Fiona relief during the Spring 2023 Alternative Break trip to Puerto Rico through the Kernodle Center for Civic Life.

“When you do other service projects, they can lack the learning part of service learning. Alternative Breaks are a great way that combines both and I love the way that Elon runs them giving students so much autonomy over what we do,” Huang said.

Elon Alternative Breaks is a proud member of Break Away, a national organization supporting alternative break programs at campuses across the country. The Kernodle Center integrates Break Away’s 8 Components of a Quality Alternative Break into its program model.