2015 Archives

For some, Spring Break means a chance to serve others

March 5, 2015

Alternative Spring Break 2015
See their photos and videos on Facebook.


During spring break 2015, many SMU students, faculty and staff will forego relaxation and spend their time serving communities around the country and elsewhere.

"Alternative Breaks is more than just about volunteering," said Jessica Chu, student director of Alternative Breaks. "It's about finding hope in a community, serving that community to their specific needs, interacting with those in need, and having an experience that will truly teach you to find something new in yourself and those you serve. 

"Many see it is a noble sacrifice to give up our spring break to help others, but I see it as a privilege to experience such a life-changing and humbling trip that will help you stretch and grow in unimaginable ways," she said.

Among the social issues they are addressing are helping adults with developmental disabilities on a farm in Pennsylvania, working at a food bank in Atlanta, Ga., caring for victims of abuse in St. Louis, inventorying wild horses in New Mexico and working to restore areas of New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

Their projects include:

Growing an Intentional Community at Camphill Kimberton

Among the winding roads of rural Kimberton, Pennsylvania sits the dynamic farming, gardening, and handcrafting intentional community Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, which serves adults with developmental disabilities. Participants return for the second year to this site to engage in outdoor farming tasks, work in the greenhouses, assist with weaving and crafting activities, and take evening meals with the villagers and coworkers.

Sanctuary for the Spirit: Rescue and Healing for Animals and Humans

Alternative Breaks is partnering with SMU Outdoor Adventures to host a camping trip in Taos, New Mexico.  Participants will work with the Northern New Mexico Friends of Animals organization to inventory wild horses in the Wild Horse Mesa area.  Additionally, the group will partner with the Equine Spirit Sanctuary to beautify the grounds, clean stables, assist with painting projects, and more. 

Make it Peachy: Cultivating Food Access in Atlanta

In Atlanta, students can help support hunger reduction with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Participants work in the organization’s product rescue center, the grocery floor, the mobile pantry and community gardens.

AB Stands with LGBT: D.C. Edition

Alternative Breaks travels to Washington, D.C., to partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community. Participants have the opportunity to learn about such LGBT service and advocacy issues and initiatives as HIV prevention, education and outreach from a political perspective.


At-Risk Youth: Inspiring the Next Generation through Caregiving and Teaching

In Cartago, Costa Rica, Alternative Breaks participants work with El Pueblito, a non-governmental and non-profit organization that offers programs and services for children, teens, and women in crisis due to sexual harassment and domestic violence. The group will assist with children’s educational activities, teaching English, tutoring, and, potentially, a small construction project.

Nurture over Neglect: Safe Haven Away from Home

In St. Louis participants volunteer at Crisis Nursery Kids, which provides temporary care for young children to help prevent child abuse and neglect. Participants will give the children in the 24-hour shelters individual attention through rocking, playing, feeding and dressing.

Rising Above the Storm: Rebuilding Homes and Lives

Alternative Breaks, in collaboration with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, returns to New Orleans to serve with the Hurricane Katrina disaster recovery organization St. Bernard Project. This non-profit organization engages youth in the recovery and rebirth of the New Orleans area through rebuilding distressed and foreclosed homes to stabilize neighborhoods.

The Road to Freedom from Violence and Exploitation

Participants travel to Atlanta, Ga., to serve alongside three organizations: Wellspring Living, YouthSpark, and BeLoved Atlanta. Students assist with facilities maintenance, meal preparation, outreach, as well as learn about issues related to domestic violence and human trafficking.

Empowering Students through an Education in Exploration

In Taos, New Mexico, a group will work with the Roots and Wings Community School. The school is very understaffed, so volunteers are crucial to creating a positive classroom experience. Previous SMU Alternative Breakers working with this organization served by tutoring, teaching mini-lessons in the classrooms, painting and helping with outdoor landscaping and remodeling. SMU students serve as role models for the children.

Food as Medicine in the Concrete Jungle

In New York City, Alternative Breaks will partner with God’s Love We Deliver to prepare and serve food to individuals living with serious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer who, due to their illnesses, are unable to provide quality meals for themselves. God’s Love We Deliver prepares and delivers almost 4,600 meals each day.

About SMU Alternative Breaks

SMU Alternative Breaks, founded in 1987,  is a student organization offering direct community service opportunities during the Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer academic breaks. Alternative Breaks takes student groups and student leaders, as well as faculty/staff, to communities across the country and the world to perform vital service alongside reputable non-profit organizations. Participants have the opportunity to engage in quality service, gain insight into important social issues, and reflect on how to create positive social change.

Alternative Breaks is supported by the Community Engagement & Leadership Center within the Division of Student Affairs. Click here for more information.


Other Spring Break Journeys

SMU students also use Spring Break to further their education and broaden their understanding of society and history. Those journeys include:

SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage

SMU Civil Rights Pilgrims get on the bus to SelmaAs part of this eight-day bus journey, SMU students, faculty and staff visit the American South’s civil rights landmarks and meet people who participated in and witnessed the movement. They will be joining thousands from around the world who are marching across Edmund Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

The group’s stops include Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas; Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King served as pastor; the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four young girls were killed in a bombing; the campus of Ole Miss in Oxford; and the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. King was assassinated. More about the pilgrimage.

“In the course of our journey, we meet numerous ‘keepers of history,’ including the former leaders of the bus boycott and voting rights marches,” says political science Associate Professor Dennis Simon, who with Ray Jordan, leads the pilgrimage, which is sponsored by SMU’s Chaplain’s Office. “These are people whose lives and stories give life – in the here and now – to what we read and see in our study of the civil rights movement. Their character, faith and willingness to share their experiences help us understand the inner strength required to kill Jim Crow.”

Read their blog.

Political Science in Washington 

SMU Alternative Spring Break 2015Twelve students in the University Honors Program political science class “The Supreme Court Seminar” are spending six days in Washington, D.C., where they will conduct research on the papers of former Supreme Court Justices housed in the Library of Congress. Each student in the seminar has developed an independent research topic and question, and will produce a research paper. 

“True education isn’t just about consuming scholarship; it is also about learning to create it,” says Joe Kobylka, associate professor of political science, who teaches the course. “Under the auspices of the University Honors Program, and with funding provided by the Richter Foundation, the students in this research seminar will be able to do actual archival work in original documents housed only in the Library of Congress. This experience is usually enjoyed only by professors and graduate students, but the seminar students will use the papers as primary sources to address the research questions they have designed over the first portion of the semester. In this, they will not just be consumers of scholarship, but participants in the creation of knowledge.”

Read their blog.

Human Rights in Vietnam & Cambodia

SMU Alternative Spring Break 2015Eighteen SMU students and faculty members will be in Vietnam and Cambodia March 5-14 to study genocide and other crimes against humanity that took place during and after the Vietnam War. Read their blog.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of America’s exit from Southeast Asia after the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.

Led by the Embrey Human Rights Program, the group will visit Hanoi, Da Nang, Huế and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and the site of the My Lai Massacre, where as many as 504 unarmed civilians were massacred by U.S. Army soldiers on March 16, 1968.

The group also will visit the “killing fields” around Phnom Penh in Cambodia, where, from 1975 to 1979, some two million people were killed by execution, disease, and starvation by the Khmer Rouge regime allied with North Vietnam. 

This is the third trip to the region led by the Embrey Human Rights Program, which previously visited in 2004 and 2008.

Read their blog.


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