Each year, a collection of JMU students spend their spring break on one of several unique service-learning trips. These Alternative Spring Breaks (ASBs), are unlike anything one could expect to find on a leisurely voyage to the beach. While the “traditional” spring break plans are perfect for unwinding, some Dukes opt for an experience volunteering rather than a week soaking up the sun.

The Community Service-Learning Office ensures that each trip focuses on a particular social issue, including topics such as poverty, education reform, and the environment. Trips generally consist of approximately 12 student participants, along with two student co-leaders, who are tasked with overseeing the week’s events with the assistance of a faculty or staff learning partner. After returning from this year’s Alternative Spring Break Program, some of our fellow Dukes reflected on their experiences and shared them with The Daily Duke. Here are their stories:

Name: Lauren Valente
Year: Senior
Major: Communications 
Trip: Kansas City, MOIMG_6435“ASB was one of the most rewarding and educational experiences I’ve had during my time at JMU. I learned about social issues on a deeper level. In doing so, I learned more about myself and my dedication for helping others and my community.”

Name: Jeremy Soler
Year: Junior
Major: Marketing
Trip: Nashville, TNIMG_8671“ASB allowed me to see life through a different lens. I was able to immerse myself in the community I was serving, and I gained a greater perspective on the lives of those less fortunate. I am now much more grateful for the opportunities I am given.”

Name: Brittany Howard
Year: Senior
Majors: SMAD; Communications
Trip: Nicaragua 

brit asb“Participating in the Alternative Spring Break Program throughout my JMU career, both as a leader and participant, has helped me expand my perspective, grow immensely in my leadership ability, and adopt a more conscientious living style.  Being able to serve alongside other active citizens, and learn about social issues that affect communities around the globe has been an unparalleled experience.”

Name: Katherine Gibson
Year: Senior
Major: Psychology
Trip: Kansas City, MOIMG_6419“Leading an alternative break was an incredibly rewarding experience. By the time we finished, it was about a year of applying, training and planning. Attending training each week allowed us to grow as leaders and build a community. Our extensive training allowed us to be very well prepared to lead a group of participants and learn with them about our specific social issue. My co-leader and I learned from each other and were able to build a relationship through our passion for service! Being a leader pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and become a more decisive and confident person!”

Name: Haley Yates
Year: Senior
Major: Marketing
Trip: Arches National ParkArches ASB.JPG“My favorite part of my trip was being completely immersed in nature for a week. We were working, living and exploring in a beautiful national park. I‎t was honestly the most breathtaking place I’ve ever seen!”

Name: Emily Hall
Year: Senior
Major: IDLS
Trip: Lakeland, FL
Emily Hall ASB photo.JPG
 “My trip was with the East Coast Migrant Head Start Program in Lakeland, FL. I cannot imagine spending my break anywhere else. I learned so much in one week and witnessed the constant dedication and passion of the teachers who work with the children on a daily basis. I also got to work alongside my team members. While we all had different majors and career goals in life, we shared a desire to advocate for migrant workers as well as to achieve equity within the United States public school system.”
Name: Collin Ashley
Year: Senior
Major: Health Sciences
Trip: Arches National Park
colin ASB.JPG
“As a graduating senior, I could not dream of a better way to culminate my JMU undergrad experience than participating in the Alternative Spring Break trip to Arches National Park in Moab, UT.  I had the opportunity to reflect on what an ideal parallel this trip was to my Madison Experience.  Being immersed in an unfamiliar area has given me the opportunity to explore the world, develop new friendships and be a vessel of active citizenship.”
Do you have any experiences with the Alternative Spring Break Program? Let us know in the comments!

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