Alternative Breaks gears up for ‘Service Saturday’

GVL / Courtesy - Jennifer Lewis
Jessica Knapp, Kathleen Wittman, Quincy Williams

GVL / Courtesy – Jennifer Lewis Jessica Knapp, Kathleen Wittman, Quincy Williams

Ty Konell

When it comes to giving back to the community, the Grand Valley State University student organization Alternative Breaks finds service to be not only a hobby but a lifestyle shared with close friends.

Continuing its tradition of dedicating personal time to aid others, Alternative Breaks will be holding service hours Saturday, Feb. 11. Service Saturday is a monthly volunteer opportunity that allows for students to participate in local communities.

“We coordinate these events with nonprofit organizations in the greater Grand Rapids area, so Service Saturdays are always close to campus, pertain to local social and environmental issues and are free to participate in,” said Ryker Huizinga, vice president of public relations for Alternative Breaks.

Traditionally, Service Saturday trips are a full day of work and offer a discussion among participating students.

A typical Saturday of volunteering, Huizinga said, begins at the Kirkhof Center where the group leaders provide a brief orientation and discuss the mission of the organization. Afterward, the students carpool to the location and begin the day’s work.

“We typically work from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a break for lunch in between,” Huizinga said. “Once we are finished working, we have a reflection where we share our experiences and discuss the importance of our work.”

Furthermore, representatives for Alternative Breaks agree that Service Saturdays may offer learning opportunities for students who partake in the events.

“As college students, it can be so easy to get completely wrapped up in weekly routines, challenging classes, odd work hours and late nights studying,” Huizinga said. “But it’s important to step away from the craziness and become aware of the world around you.

In addition, Huizinga said Service Saturdays offer students a break from their typical routines and provide the chance to ask important questions in a positive, constructive environment.

Members of Alternative Breaks believe the volunteer opportunity will continue throughout the years, and are ready with many ideas for events and collaborations in the future.

“I definitely see Service Saturday events continuing, they have become an integral part of Alternative Breaks’ programming,” Huizinga said. “(As for) future growth and new events, I would love to see more collaboration with other student organizations.

“There are so many fantastic service and advocacy organizations on campus that we can develop stronger partnerships with.” 

As Alternative Breaks continues to connect with other programs on campus, he said, the organization foresees a plethora of new collaborative opportunities for students to experience.

The most important aspect of joining the group, Huizinga said, is the organization’s welcome environment that provides a friendly atmosphere, close bonds and sense of family.

“My favorite thing about Alternative Breaks is the friendships that develops through every experience. Service unites people to work for a shared goal, and the bond it creates is incredible,” he said. “I’ve been a member of Alternative Breaks for the past four years, and I’ve become friends with so many great people while on this journey. 

“They’re inspiring and challenge me to be a better person. I’m definitely at home with Alternative Breaks. I’m among friends and family.”