Students give back at local retirement center

GVL / Courtesy Ryker Huizinga

GVL / Courtesy Ryker Huizinga

For students who want a break from studying, Grand Valley State University’s student-run organization Alternative Breaks is hosting a Service Saturday on Dec. 5 starting at 9 a.m. Participants will spend the day volunteering at Clark Retirement Community.

Aaron Christiansen, a GVSU junior, has been involved with Alternative Breaks for three years. Christiansen serves as the vice president of community impact, meaning that he coordinates the service activities.

For the December event, he chose Clark Retirement Community, where students will help residents take down remaining Thanksgiving decorations and prepare for the next holiday season.

“I chose this location because it pertains to our ‘engaging the aging’ trip that we will be sending out in the spring,” Christiansen said. “People should come because it is a great opportunity to meet people as well as make connections in the community and learn about organizations in the community.”

Christiansen said these types of events are great ways for anyone to educate themselves about societal issues and how they can work to prevent them.

“Everyone should go on an AB trip at some point during their time at GV just so they can have that experience, as for some people it has helped to mold the future that they will be striving for,” he said.

Although Melissa Baker-Boosamra has only been the Alternative Breaks adviser for about a month, she also emphasized the importance of giving back through service events.

“Service Saturdays are a great way for students to get involved in learning more about the local community and in sharing their time, talent and energy with community partners,” Baker-Boosamra said.

She agreed with Christiansen that Alternative Breaks can help educate students.

“AB moves students toward becoming active, informed citizens through coordinating educational experiences and issues-based service trips,” Baker-Boosamra said. “AB is increasing their focus on pre- and post-education in order to empower students with knowledge to make their service experiences meaningful.”

Service Saturdays are monthly events that are free for GVSU students. The events feature hands-on volunteering in the Grand Rapids area, followed by a group reflection on what people learned from the experience. Places they have visited include Blandford Nature Center, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Family Promise.

To sign up for the December Service Saturday, find Alterative Breaks on OrgSync. For more information about the organization and other ways to get involved, visit, or contact [email protected] with any questions.