MAKE A BREAK FOR IT

By Jennifer Jones, communications director, Bennion Community Service Center

 Travel. Check. Volunteer. Check. Apply for Alt Break. What? You didn’t apply for what some students call the most amazing experience of their academic career? Get with it! “Alternative spring break exposed me to issues I didn’t know I could be passionate about,” one student wrote. “The service we took part in not only impacted my belief system but my future lifestyle.”

p-reyes-group-photoSound like something you could be interested in? Only if you care about things like eco-restoration, homelessness, immigration, hunger, women and poverty, HIV/AIDS or similar social and environmental issues. But it’s not too late. You can apply here. Applications are due Nov. 28.

Sponsored by the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center, the alternative break experience is designed to help students volunteer and travel. Destinations include cities throughout the western United States and Canada. “I think one of the most meaningful experiences was learning how to communicate, reflect and live with people of different views and personalities for six days straight!” one student wrote. Another student noted, “It’s hard when you’re a commuter. This was the first time I’ve felt a real sense of community at the U and it was AMAZING!”

Laura Schwartz coordinates the alt breaks experience but she doesn’t run it. That’s handled by students. Each site has a student site leader and a faculty or staff partner. They arrange for transportation, lodging, meals and a week’s worth of service with a community partner who understands the issue and the area. The group, usually about 12 students, lives and works together for the week while they also learn about their chosen area of interest. Trips typically cost between $450 and $650, all inclusive, with discounts available for students with financial hardships.

“Before the trip, I thought I would be doing hard work focused on our issue, and that discussion and connections to other people related to the issue would be secondary. After this trip, I realized that the human relations side of environmental restoration is just as important as the direct service.”

“I didn’t have high expectations before coming to this trip, but wow, I’m speechless now. It was an amazing experience. Not only did it meet every expectation of mine but it changed my perspective on the world, humanity and especially the homeless population. Thank you for this wonderful experience.”