Alternative Spring Break helps students experience different ways of service

In 2012, Appalachian’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program engaged 322 faculty, staff and students in service opportunities in 18 U.S. locations, as well as in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Peru and Jamaica.

Rather than a traditional spring break experience, these students dedicated their break to service, working with programs that rehabilitate animals, help preserve the environment, combat poverty, offer education and support to children and teens, and more.

ASB began at Appalachian in 1988, and has expanded to become the Alternative Service Experience program that takes place every fall, winter and spring break. Leadership teams, comprised of two undergraduate student peer leaders and one faculty or staff learning partner, work together to develop each program. The peer leaders complete extensive training and work with the learning partners to organize meaningful, co-curricular learning experiences for their participants.

Combining knowledge from the classroom with on-site field experience, students who choose an alternative break experience can make a real difference while also learning about themselves.

At Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in New York, a farm dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating farm animals and advocating and educating people about the cruelties of factory farming, students helped with tasks such as painting, fence building, cleaning barns, and working with the animals.

 “ASB is just a great way for students to get out and experience something different and not do something every college student does,” said Amanda Moore, global studies and public relations major and participant of the ASB trip to Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. “But actually going somewhere and making a difference in the lives of someone you can see, be it animals, children, elderly people, it’s an amazing feeling, it really does empower you.”

POTS is a soup kitchen in the Bronx that also provides services such as haircuts, legal and tax services, free showers or just a warm, safe place to talk to someone. Here, students immersed themselves in helping in the food kitchen and sorting donations.

“You can really learn so much about not only yourself but more importantly how your actions affect everyone in the community,” said Kyle Schermbeck, public relations student and a participant of ASB who was involved at Part of the Solution (POTS) in the Bronx, N.Y. “It’s really an amazing opportunity I think everyone should be involved in.”

Alternative break experiences are coordinated by Appalachian State University’s Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) office. ASB was ranked 10th in the nation for the number of alternative break programs it offered in 2010-2011. Since 2011, all Alternative Service Experience programs have been carbon neutral.