Alternative Spring Break sends 110 students on volunteer-oriented trips 

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Courtesy of Brittany Thomas

Students volunteer on service learning projects across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for Alternative Spring Break.

Lauren Reid, Staff Reporter

The Alternative Spring Break (ASB) organization sent 110 students on eight trips across the Northern Hemisphere during Oakland University’s annual spring break that took place Feb. 22 to March 2. Trip destinations included Kentucky, Florida, California, Georgia and Puerto Rico.

“ASB connects students with service learning projects all across the country, helping students gain new experiences and opportunities while also being exposed to new areas and cultures,” said Jeremy Heinlein, coordinator of leadership and service programs. “OU was well represented [over spring break] as 110 individuals chose not to vacation, take a break from classes or pick up shifts at work, but instead volunteer and immerse themselves in communities outside of their own.” 

Students participating in ASB volunteered in multiple, empowering ways, from restoring cave entrances with the American Hiking Society in Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky, to working with Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, Florida, and helping children with critical illnesses.  

One student group headed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where they worked with an organization called Victory Living that aims to help individuals with cognitive disabilities.

According to Brittany Thomas, a senior recruitment adviser and adviser of the Fort Lauderdale trip, working alongside students at Victory Living was “one of the best, most life changing experiences of [her] life.” 

Students on the trip built connections with many individuals at Victory Living, some even through nonverbal interactions like smiling and dancing. 

“I got to learn about the students and how amazing they are,” Thomas said. “They were able to connect through things like dance and music. When [the students] were taken out of their comfort zone, they really thrived.” 

There was a lot of reflection on the trip as well, as students and advisers spoke nightly about new discoveries they had made. 

“I learned to be more willing to help people and not complain about it,” freshman Alex Grant said. “Even though someone might have a disability, they can still be smart and active just like the rest of us. It [was very rewarding] to [be] there and [see] the people you helped make happy.” 

Other ASB trips headed off to Atlanta, where students worked with Urban Immersion to help local food pantries and after-school programs; Biscayne, Florida, to clean waste and trash from beaches; Santa Catalina, California, to help the ecosystem and protect native species; and Puerto Rico to aid in hurricane relief through activities like assisting in community gardens. 

“The hope is students bring back what they learned and experienced from their trip and use that knowledge to help our communities,” Heinlein said. 

This summer, ASB is hosting a trip to Give Kids the World, and is also planning to offer more trips in the 2020-21 school year, as mentioned by Heinlein. 

Students interested in ASB should keep an eye out for applications, as they’ll be released in September. As of now, students can get involved by following ASB on Facebook or joining their page on Engage.