Alternative Breaks provide rewarding spring break to students

Frances Myers

Fifty ISU students chose to skip the sleepless nights of parting at Panama City Beach and decided to dedicate spring break this year to participate in service projects to combat issues such as literacy and poverty.

Alternative Breaks is a nationwide program that is sponsored by Break Away. Mostly college based, more than 170 schools participate in the program each year. ISU students began participating in 2007.

In the past, ISU Alternative Break students traveled to such places as the Dominican Republic, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Arkansas, Colorado, West Virginia and Ohio to work with these issues.

Five trips have been scheduled this year. Teams of 10 students each will be going to Cincinnati, Ohio; Kansas City, Miss.; Cranks, Ky.; Eagle Butte, S.D.; and Indianapolis, Ind.

“Each trip revolves around one specific issue such as homelessness, rural poverty or substandard housing,” said Amy Scallon, senior in biology and site leader and board member of Alternative Breaks. “Participants are lead on their alternative breaks trip by two site leaders, and throughout the spring semester they meet weekly with their site leaders as well as the other participants on their trip to prepare for the trip and become educated about the issue.”

Laura Coombs, senior in management, is a site leader this year for the Operation Breakthrough trip in Kansas City. Operation Breakthrough is a day care program for children living in poverty.

“We will be going to the day care and helping in the classrooms while also having the experience to learn from leaders in the community,” Coombs said. “We will also be helping with miscellaneous projects such as sorting donations, washing windows, moving furniture among other things at the site that will allow employees to focus on the children.”

Since this will be Coomb’s first Alternative Breaks trip, she has been spending time with her team at meetings looking at media regarding Operation Breakthrough.

“I can already see that this will be a very rewarding experience,” Coombs said.

The team going to Eagle Butte will participate in the Cheyenne Youth River Project. This means they will be working on a Native American reservation, working with the youth at an after school program as well as doing some home refurbishing.

The team going to Cranks to work at the Cranks Creek Survival Center will work with residents in the Appalachian Mountains, doing home refurbishing and repairs.

This will be the first year there will be an all-greek team made up of members of fraternities and sororities from the ISU Greek Community. This team will be making its way to Indianapolis to work with the homeless populations through working at soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The team going to Cincinnati will be servicing Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless.

“Our trip will have a combination of learning activities as well as providing service from 9 to 5 each day,” said Ashley Hunter, graduate in political science and site leader of the Ohio team. “The learning activities are anywhere from listening to speakers or eating on food stamps, or living homeless. Then service is with in the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless where they need us.”

Students involved with these trips said they find they are often quite an enjoyable way to spend their spring breaks and they usually learn more about society from the experiences they get to have through these trips.

“I have made amazing friends through this program and have had the opportunity to meet so many great people from different backgrounds and cultures,” said Scallon. “Personally, Alternative Breaks has opened my eyes to cultures outside of Ames and the state of Iowa, and has made me realize that service is a very important part of my life because there are so many people in our country who are less fortunate than I am. If by giving up my spring break I am able to make a difference in someone’s life then it has been completely worth it.”