Photo by DYLAN COUR
For many students, fall break is an opportunity to go home and take time away from school. For others, however, it is a chance to give back to the community and get some volunteer experience. Alternative Breaks are ways for students to give back to the community either locally or nationally. The theme for this fall break was “Keeping it in the Mitten,” more specifically, Gratiot County.
Alternative Breaks initially came to fruition in 2003 where there was a single trip and about 20 students were involved. Today there are over 100 participants in the alternative break program each academic year. These breaks teach students about social issues impacting a region and allows them to experience the culture of a community in their specified location.
The breaks that took place this past fall break range from working in non-profit locations to working with the parks and recreation department of Gratiot County. Some students worked with the Wilcox Nonprofit Center, which took place in Alma. Others worked with The Community Compassion Food Kitchen in Mt. Pleasant or Forest Hill Nature Area that is part of the Gratiot County parks system.
Some breaks were able to provide students with new information about the location they were helping. “Alternative Break at the Wilcox Center actually provided me with so much information about all the nonprofits located in the single building. It was definitely eye opening to hear how much goes on in the community and how many nonprofits there are dedicated to helping Gratiot County,” said Morgan Gust (’21).
On top of the direction from the school, students are in charge of creating the time frame and schedule. “As a site leader you have to pre plan the entire trip. You are in charge of connecting with the community planners, creating an itinerary, creating a budget and getting the students interested. If anyone has questions they come to you, and while you have a staff member, they are only around during the trip and are there to make sure you are following the rules of Alma College,” said Jessica Araway (’21).
Not just anyone can be a site leader however. There is an application process all must go through who are interested in becoming site leaders. “In order to be a site leader, you have to go on an alternative break as a student and the site leader of that trip then recommends you to the other site leaders as a potential new site leader, and then you get invited to an informational meeting where you get to decide,” said Araway.
Students who have attended alternative breaks recommend that other students also utilize this program that has been created. “I would absolutely recommend alternative breaks to other students and I’m a big advocate for them in the Transition Assistance Program that I’m apart of here at Alma,” said Raquel Smith (’21). “It’s a great way to get to know more students as well as give back to our community or other communities as well.”
Many students use alternative breaks as a way to explore opportunities outside of their major and outside of the campus life. “This break was not a part of my major, I took it because it gave me a sense of what the Alma Community is going through and gave me a different perspective from the Alma College bubble many of us live in,” said Marissa Quiroz (’21).
In addition to the 3 experiences offered during the fall break, alternative breaks will be run during winter break as well as spring break in the second semester. Exact details for those trips have yet to come out, but information can be found on the Alma College website or by going to the CSO and speaking with Carla Jensen, Assistant Director of Venture Program and Off-Campus Studies.