James Madison University’s Alternative Spring Break program is celebrating its 20th year by doing what it does best, sending teams of students to locations in the United States and abroad to immerse themselves in a different community, live simply and offer service.
This year three students from the Lovettsville, Purcellville area are foregoing a traditional college spring break trip to participate in one of JMU’s Alternative Spring Break trips March 3 – 10.
The students have been working in teams since early November to organize their trip, choose a faculty or staff learning partner and fundraise. All their planning culminates in a week focused on social issues and service in their destination community but also on teamwork and reflection within their group.
Misty Newman, assistant director of Community Service-Learning for Alternative Break Programs, hopes the ASB experience propels students to be active citizens long after college. “I’m excited for students to have this experience so we can continue to add more advocates for the people and social issues that they will encounter,” said Newman. “When they experience things first hand, my hope is that it will ignite in them a passion for serving and that the reflection will allow them to see how they fit into the larger global society.”
Carson Rader Bell of Purcellville will be traveling to Montego Bay, Jamaica to assist the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill. Students will spend time with clients in an attempt to improve their quality of life and levels of physical and mental health. Volunteers will be staying in a local hostel and will adhere to a simple living philosophy during their stay.
Thomas Kirk of Lovettsville will be traveling off the coast of California to participate in the Catalina Environmental Learning Program. Students will work to preserve the island’s natural beauty by participating in environmentally focused community service work, such as beach cleanups, planning, building and species removal. Volunteers will be ferried out to the island where they will stay in cabins for the week.
Mary Von Gersdorff of Purcellville will travel to Natchez, Miss. to volunteer at the Sunshine Children’s Center, a safe haven for abused and neglected children recently taken into protective custody. The organization helps these children cope with trauma and develop life skills.
Students will act as positive role models and mentors by assisting with an after-school care program and helping young adults acquire necessary skills and responsibilities to live independent lives.
The JMU Alternative Break Program is the Break Away National Program of the Year for 2010 in recognition of the university’s commitment to active citizenship. The program earned the same award in 1999 from Break Away, a national nonprofit organization that supports the development of quality alternative break programs at colleges and other nonprofit organizations.