Service Learning and Community Action

2014 ASB Trips

Program Descriptions
2014 Program Fees
Program Expectations

Participant applications are reviewed by a selection committee comprised of participants from previous ASB trips. Applicants will be selected for interviews and participation on the trips based on answers to six short answer application questions and how well their answers reflect the following:

  • How the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) experience fits with the applicant’s overall Emerson experience.
  • The skills and experiences the applicant brings to and expects to gain from ASB.
  • How the applicant may develop personally and professionally through service work.
  • How the applicant’s previous experiences make them a good fit for ASB.
  • The applicant’s apparent willingness to learn about social issues and educate the Emerson community about them and their experience participating in ASB.
  • The applicant’s understanding of the mission and values of a service trip.
  • How the applicant views co-curricular engagement at Emerson can and has influenced them.

Trip Descriptions

Boston, Massachusetts

All students, staff, and alumni are invited to join ASB Boston as we serve youth experiencing homelessness over spring break, March 3-7, 2014. Serve for just a day or the entire week, whenever you are available.

Learn about the organizations we'll be serving with for the week:

Hope for Creativity is a youth powered 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides personalized art supply packs to homeless children between the ages of 2-18 who are receiving support services from a 501c3 social service agency in Massachusetts. We also educate others about the struggles of childhood homelessness, and empower them to be change makers, no matter what age.

Cradles to Crayons was founded in 2002, with the mission of providing to children ages 0 to 12 some of the most important basics of life—free of charge. These basics include clothing, school supplies, toys, and much more. In other words, we provide all the physical goods that children need to be safe, protected from the elements, and ready to learn. And by supplying them with high-quality used or new goods, we make children feel valued.

More Than Words is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.By working as a team to manage their own retail and online used book business, café, and community space, youth develop the employment skills, leadership, and self-confidence they need to successfully transition to adulthood. In addition to store-based job training, youth are engaged in personal transition planning and case management to support their progress towards employment and education.

Birthday Wishes brings the magic of a birthday party to thousands of homeless children each year. Founded in 2002 as a volunteer organization serving one local shelter, Birthday Wishes has expanded its program to serve more than 185 shelters and transitional living facilities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Long Island, New York. Our goal is to provide birthday parties to all homeless children in Massachusetts and to make our model available to homeless family programs nationwide.

Horizons for Homeless Children is the only organization in Massachusetts focused exclusively on the needs of young homeless children and their families. We are recognized as a national leader in the education of homeless children. Today we provide high-quality early education, opportunities for play, and family engagement services to more than 3,000 homeless children each week in Massachusetts.

Apply for the 2014 Boston ASB Program »

Joshua Tree National Park, California

This trip focuses on ecological conservation and trail maintenance work within the national treasure that is Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. Participants will get to the roots of the park by camping each night under the stars and waking each morning to engage in manual service that includes: clearing invasive species, building broken down areas of the park, clearing trails, and more. This is an opportunity to compare natural environments in urban and rural settings, and learn the importance of the national parks in our society.

Now more than ever, national parks across the U.S. are in need of help from volunteers. In October alone, the National Park System has up to 750,000 visitors per day. With budget cuts to the NPS each year, it is becoming more and more difficult to protect our natural lands that provide education, jobs, tourism, economic boosts, and memories for those who are able to experience their beauty. We will explore these issues and more while living for one week in a national park.

Detroit, Michigan

ASB Detroit will visit the Motor City to explore the topic of shrinking cities and the economics of poverty while working with charitable organizations seeking to alleviate the pressure of poverty that the city cannot. Participants will work with a diverse array of organizations striving to help impoverished communities, women, children, the medically underserved, and the hungry of Detroit.

Detroit, once a shining example of the prosperity garnered by American industrialism, is now the largest city in America to file for bankruptcy. After the manufacturing boom ended, when manufacturing jobs moved overseas or disappeared altogether, high unemployment plus white and middle-class flight to the suburbs left the city with a reduced tax base, depressed property values, abandoned buildings, abandoned neighborhoods, high crime rates and a pronounced demographic imbalance.

Shrinking cities, defined as dense cities that have experienced notable population loss, are one of the most difficult areas for impoverished communities to survive. Population loss, most often due to emigration of wealthy residents for any number of reasons, leads to a number of dire consequences. An infrastructure that was built to support a much larger community can no longer be maintained by the current tax base leaving necessary functions such as police, firefighting, and ambulance services underfunded. This leaves little aside then for programs aimed at benefiting the urban poor. Abandoned buildings lead to urban blight, where entire blocks and neighborhoods are left evacuated, which leads to increased squatting, crime, and safety hazards. All this culminates in low property values and high unemployment making it extremely difficult for the cities, and in turn their inhabitants, to recover. These are the issues participants will explore on ASB Detroit.

Eagle Butte, South Dakota

Participants will live on a Lakota Native American reservation in rural South Dakota, which encompasses two of the poorest towns in the entire nation. Among many challenges, the Lakota nation has an 80% unemployment rate, which is one of the highest in the country. This trip will partner with the Cheyenne River Youth Project: an essential youth and family services center that is integral to the reservation's support system. The Project's mission is to provide the youth of the Cheyenne River Reservation access to a vibrant and secure future through a variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities, and ensuring strong self-sufficient families and communities. Participants will assist the center by working with children in a number of programs including: Arts & Crafts, Literacy, Creative Writing, and Wellness (recreation and mentorship).

Participants on this trip will assist with an event for the reservation’s teen girls called “Passion for Fashion.” This female empowerment-focused event will require participants to help the girls pick out their prom dress outfits, assist with makeup and hair, and prepare the runway fashion show in the teen community center. A portion of the trip will also focus on vital tasks that help the Lakota reservation residents in their everyday lives and in finding positive and productive solutions to the problems their community faces. Participants will also have a hand in environmental maintenance and the restoration and repair of their facilities. This service work will help students gain insight into the creation of reservations, how they are maintained, and the current state of reservations across the country.

Participants will examine and explore the creation of reservations and the different tribes that currently exist across the country, the recent Native American history of boarding schools, the declining state of reservations' public school systems, The American Indian Movement, sovereign rights, social justice issues current reservations face (i.e cultural appropriation, the high percentages of infant mortality, alcoholism, and depression, and the high level of poverty), as well as exploring the language preservation of Native American reservations and understanding cultural terms like Sioux, Lakota, Dakota, Nakota which many of us have likely read in our American history and public school textbooks. The Native American cultural experience and historical narrative has been lost, misrepresented, and overlooked in our society and education system, and this trip will help students gain insight and a deepened perspective on a culture and aspect of social justice that isn't frequently discussed.

2014 Trip Fees

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Detroit, Michigan
Eagle Butte, South Dakota
Participants on these trips will be responsible for a $350 program fee, due January 17th.

>This fee includes:
Transportation: round trip travel to the destination city and all ground transportation – to and from the airport and service sites – during the week.
Food and Lodging: all meals during the week of service will be included in this fee, but participants are responsible for meals while traveling to and from the destination city.
Accommodations with basic amenities will be provided, typically through a local non-profit or service site.
Site Fees: any costs associated with the service sites.

If you have questions about this fee or the overall affordability of the trip, please contact

Program Expectations

  1. Commitment: Participants are expected to be available for and participate fully throughout the ASB program – beginning December 2013 through May 2014.
    Important Dates:
    $50 Deposit Due to Confirm Space before leaving for Winter Break - Check or Money Order Only
    January 17: Remaining Program Fee Due
    March 1–9: Spring Break Trips
    Additional pre- and post- trip dates to be scheduled by the group. Plenary meetings and pre-trip events are the best way to get to know the other group members and your participation is essential for a successful trip. In addition, each ASB participant must actively participate in all group activities and reflections during the trip.
  2. Represent Emerson College: Respect the Emerson College Student Code of Conduct and Alcohol and Other Drug Policy.
  3. Once the trip fee is collected, it cannot be returned for any reason. Similarly, if a participant withdraws from ASB, all expenses incurred on behalf of that student (such as airfare, bus fare, accommodations, etc.) become the student’s responsibility.

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