The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

Alternative Breaks looks forward to winter service trips, engagement

GVL | Alena Visnovsky

Alternative Breaks (AB) is a student organization that hosts student trips over both winter and spring break. The trips are centered around a service project or community resource across the country for students to make a difference.

This academic year the club is hosting seven trips in total, one over winter break and six over spring break. While the trips go across the country, the main purpose of the club is to bring the passion for community service to Grand Valley State University and the surrounding area. 

Our main goal is to get people excited about volunteering and to bring that attitude back to West Michigan, so we can create a difference in our local community. We do this by hosting monthly service events near campus,” said Matthew Dickinson, the AB’s finance director.  

They also hope to spread their initiative across campus by encouraging members to get involved with other clubs that reflect their area of service interest. Lydia Denning, the club’s Vice President of Recruitment said AB members engage in cross-club involvement on campus.

“We emphasize bringing key themes learned during the trips back to our local community and continuing to make ethical choices on campus. An example of this might be encouraging students who went on an environmental trip such as Park Preservation, Land Lakes Love, or Water Restoration to join different environmental clubs on campus. For social trips, such as Elderly Outreach and Hearts for Homeless, we encourage joining on-campus clubs as well as becoming involved with local non-profit organizations,” Denning said. 

Recently the club hosted a service event at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum (GRCM), which offered a hands-on learning and craft experience for children in the community. The club will be assisting with GRCM’s Giftworks program by setting up and assisting programing. AB members will help children decorate and wrap wooden magnets to take home which is part of GRCM’s Museum for All program.

“(GRCM) is a part of Museum for All which is a national initiative to encourage museum attendance among low-income and underserved families. EBT/WIC cardholders qualify for a reduced GRCM admission rate of $1.75 per person for up to 12 people. This discount is available during all normal operation hours, all you need to do is show your EBT/WIC card when purchasing admission,” said Amaya Rios who is the member engagement officer for AB.

The program also offers discounted museum memberships. Families that qualify can receive a membership at a minimum of $20 but are encouraged to give as much as they are able for the program. 

The club hopes this service opportunity will excite students for the service trips planned over winter break. This year, members will be traveling to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to work at a shelter the club refers to as “The House of Many Things.” Here students will volunteer for seven days and earn up to 40 service hours each.

AB’s executive board chose this trip by picking locations that need volunteers. The club does not want to send members to cover up a problem, instead they want to work and contribute to solving the problem and contribute to change over time. President Lily Clark said the club also values the connections they have made over time and across the country through their work. 

“We also try to form partnerships with locations, such as our Park Preservation (Park Prez) trip,” Clark said. “We go back every year to this state park and continue to see the lasting improvements made by our members.”

AB seeks to create impactful and sustainable change in locations all over the United States. The club welcomes all students but specifically, those who have a passion for fostering community that aligns with the goals of the club. 

“We aim to foster a diverse community of students who are passionate about volunteering and eager to make a difference” Denning said. “We stand for self-reflection and personal growth, active citizenship, sustainable change, making new friendships and connections, and going on a great adventure.” 

While the main focus of the club is giving back and fostering positive change, many students come in search of friends and campus involvement. Clark said she joined the organization after looking for something to do on campus and heightened her involvement from there.  

“I went on ‘Homelessness and Hope’ for spring break 2022 and fell in love with all that AB stands for. Now, I am the president and am proud to see all the good that AB does. I wanted to find a way to do something positive, and AB is exactly that,” Clark said. 

Other club members shared they stay involved because of the impact they get to have on other lives. Vice President of AB Maddy Evans said AB’s work is empowering and can impact individuals.

“I’ve grown as a leader, active citizen and community member in being a site leader and on Eboard, and I love being a part of a student org (organization) that does such important work,” Evans said. “It’s empowering to think about my role in helping other students have awesome experiences on an AB trip like I had.”

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