Student gives focus to community

Ivy Christianson

An ISU graduate has learned the importance of volunteerism after spending June 19-26 in the Dominican Republic to gain a better understanding of how to improve the ISU Alternative Breaks program.

Jeritt Tucker, graduate student in psychology, became involved with Alternative Breaks — a program for students who choose to spend their spring break time volunteering — after hearing a presentation given by students who had participated the previous year.

“The presentation was really interesting because it was amazing how much preparing for that [Spring Break week] had impacted their lives,” Tucker said.

Tucker said a few students had completely changed their majors and directions in college because of the trip. One particular student who had gone on the excursion was majoring in chemical engineering, but after learning about and dealing with drug abusers and rehabilitation, the student switched to a major involving social work.

Tucker applied to become a site leader and was eventually selected. His responsibilities included finding an issue to volunteer for — he chose to focus on mental illness — choosing a trip location, contacting the organization and making sure each day of the trip consisted of strong recreational service with education and reflection on the issue.

The Alternative Break program is an emerging project branching off from Break Away: The Alternative Break Connection Inc. Their mission is to train, assist and connect campuses and communities in order to promote quality alternative break programs that inspire lifelong active citizenship, according to their website.

Break Away hosted a conference at Orphanage Outreach in the Dominican Republic, which Tucker recently attended. The conference focused on teaching Alternative Break leaders how they could improve their respective programs on their campuses. They also participated in volunteer work while not attending various workshops.

Tucker greatly values the experiences he’s had while on the trips and believes more importance should be placed on how the communities he’s helped have benefited.

“I want to continue with Alternative Breaks because it’s a constant reminder to value social justice,” he said. “Just that week of exposure to the world makes you evaluate where your products are from, where your money is going to.”

While Break Away and Alternative Breaks are not well heard of, the organizations are actually huge. He said some schools have 12-16 percent of their students attending the breaks. With that many students going on the trips, more than a million hours of community service have been tallied up nationwide.

“The amount of potential that it has to do good work is huge,” he said.

To learn about Iowa State’s Alternative Breaks program, visit