Alternative Spring Break in 4 states

By Sarah Baker, MA ’15
March 28, 2014

More than 50 Emerson students, staff, and alumni participated in this year’s Alternative Spring Break, a weeklong immersive service opportunity for students during the week of Spring Break in early March, which was organized by Emerson’s Office of Service Learning and Community Action (SLCA).

In addition to volunteering with several Boston organizations, Emerson students traveled to Joshua Tree National Park in California; Detroit, Michigan; and the Lakota Sioux American Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The Boston organizations included Hope for Creativity, Cradles to Crayons, More than Words, Horizons for Homeless Children, and Birthday Wishes.

ASB crayons

Alternative Spring Break 2014 volunteers at Cradles to Crayons in Boston. From left, Aishwarya Ramani '15, Allison Flaherty '15, Marissa Giambelluca '11, Erin Goodyear '14, and Emily Bates '15. (Courtesy Photo)

Suzanne Hinton, director of SLCA, said Alternative Spring Break deeply impacts both participants and the communities they serve. Hinton traveled to South Dakota to participate.

“It’s the chance to step outside of their own lives—if only briefly—in order to learn about and from others,” Hinton said. “By exchanging stories with people we meet and serving alongside them, our students and advisors return to Emerson to share both knowledge and ideas about how they can support community needs through their labor, enthusiasm, and specific skills.”

At Joshua Tree National Park, participants engaged in ecological conservation efforts that included restoring damaged vegetation, and measuring and tracking native plant species to determine long-term impacts of climate change in the desert.

ASB CA

Alternative Spring Break 2014 volunteers at Joshua Tree National Park. From left, Chris McComb of Emerson Athletics, Janine Moody, Malcom Meyer '15, Alex Uriarti, Andy Schlebecker '15, Jacqueline Gunning, Kelly Salina, Madelyn Reese '16, Alicia Rodriguez '15, Ashley Tarbet, Michaela Cain '15, Briana Blair '17, Jamie Bogert '14, Darian Carpenter '15 and Kendall Stark '17. (Courtesy Photo)

“There is nothing better than seeing all of that hard work turn into something inspiring for you and your team,” said team leader Jamie Bogert ’14, a Journalism major, who led a team for a second year. “I’ve learned so much and really grown from this experience. I owe a lot to my team.”

In Detroit, Emersonians served with Motor City Blight Busters, a community revitalization group, and on The Salvation Army’s Bed and Bread trucks.

“We learned [about] the importance of education and food access,” said group leader Isabella Gordillo ’15, a Political Communication major. “There were some issues we dealt with that are very specific to Detroit, like arson and blight, but it comes back to the need for a strong educational system and access to healthy foods. [I] never would have learned these things if I didn’t participate in this program.”

At the Lakota Sioux American Indian Reservation in rural South Dakota, which has an 80 percent unemployment rate, Emersonians partnered with the Cheyenne River Youth Project and worked on an event called “Passion for Fashion” for the tribe’s teenage girls.

ASB SD

Alternative Spring Break 2014 volunteers in South Dakota. From top left, Sierra Smith '16, Tyler Powles '17, Abby Thompson '15, Xia Rondeau '17, Bianca Padro '16, Shannon Bushee '16, Dylan Manderlink '14, Samantha Washburn '14, Julia Ferragamo '17, Lauren Gallagher '15, Laurie Arnone, Suzanne Hinton, and Jessica Luna White '14. (Courtesy Photo)

“I got the opportunity to try to honestly understand a history of peoples who have been long ignored, disrespected, and warped with misinformation,” said group leader Dylan Manderlink ’14, a Performing Arts major.

Emerson’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations helped fund Alternative Spring Break this year by utilizing USEED, a new crowdfunding platform to raise money for the program.

“The USEED platform provides an amazing opportunity for our students,” said Claude Bartholomew, Alternative Spring Break advisor and project manager in the Office of Academic Affairs. “Our campaign gained support from students, faculty, staff, alumni, family, and friends. ASB needs that support to immerse our students in these communities with the intention of creating lifelong engaged citizens.”

Co-sponsoring Alternative Spring Break 2014 with SLCA were the Office of the President; Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning, and Research; International Student Affairs; Office of Student Life; and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

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