Alternative Breaks leaders recommend trip to all students

Courtesy Photo / Cory Jackson
Cory Jackson handles a fish habitat on the trails spring break trip

Courtesy Photo / Cory Jackson Cory Jackson handles a fish habitat on the trails spring break trip

Susie Skowronek

For opportunities to volunteer, learn about social issues and meet new people, Alternative Breaks has a fully-loaded buffet.

The organization sends groups of students on service trips around the U.S., and the deadline to apply for a spot on these volunteer voyages is quickly approaching.

Alternative Breaks coordinator Cory Jackson said he encourages everyone, especially transfer students and freshmen looking for new friends, to go on a service trip. Jackson has gone on four breaks and led two.

Trails – Spring Break 2010

Upon the GVSU group’s arrival at a state park for the Trails spring break trip, a ranger said they could not honk the horn of their vehicle because the act would violate the law.

“The state rangers said we had to yell, ‘hooty-hoo,’” Jackson said.

For five days, the Alternative Breaks students, yelling in a law-abiding manner, drove in a 15-passenger van to relocate to various places in the park.

One of their tasks involved building fish habitats out of recycled materials. Jackson said his group tossed picnic tables into the water to create livable environments for the fish.

At one point, they lugged a particularly difficult table to the edge of a pond. After they maneuvered the wooden structure into the water, it floated in circles for the rest of the week.

The Alternative Breaks group from GVSU also helped paint and clean up the park.

On the last day of the trip, the park ranger who greeted them on the first day said he lied about the no-honk law.

“He told us he was just messing with us,” Jackson said.

Youth and Education – Spring Break 2010

At an inner-city elementary school, public relations chair Ashley Peterle worked in classrooms, at recess and in after-school programs. She played games with the students during breaks and helped them with their homework after school.

“A lot of the students came from rough backgrounds,” she said. “A lot of their families probably didn’t graduate, and it was a hard time getting them to enjoy doing homework – or even to do their homework at all.”

The elementary school students liked playing basketball or jumping rope at recess. The girls enjoyed braiding Alternative Breaks women’s hair.

“They loved the feeling of the hair because it was different from theirs,” Peterle said.

River Restoration – Spring Break 2010

Melissa Ostrowski, who will be a site leader for one of the winter break trips this year, spent last spring break shoveling empty oyster shells from restaurants into ecologically friendly, netted bags. The River Restoration team helped build an oyster shell reef at the edge of a river to prevent its erosion.

“I don’t think this project has been used in other places,” she said. “We hope that the oysters start to use the man-made reef and make it bigger.”

She said a man who lived near the river for 20 to 30 years had seen the shoreline by his house recede 10 to 20 yards.

A group of college students stayed in the same housing as the Alternative Break participants from GVSU. Ostrowski said the other college students sometimes went out during the evening to catch creatures, including alligators.

“Luckily the students would tape the mouth and arms, so they wouldn’t attack me,” she said.

The deadline to apply for spring break trips is Nov. 19, and Nov. 5 is the deadline for winter break trips. Each costs $250. Details can be found at

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