By Janell Smith
There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to make a difference, be different.”
While most students went home, cheered on the Tar Heels at Kenan Memorial Stadium or enjoyed an assortment of fried foods at the North Carolina State Fair, a select group of students spent their fall break differently than their peers. Seventy students spent their fall breaks serving communities across North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic.
Each fall, the APPLES Service-Learning program offers student-led Alternative Fall Break (AFB) experiences. Fifty-eight students and 12 student leaders dedicated their breaks to doing service in six focus areas: Urban Communities, Latino Communities, Rural Communities, Environmental Issues, Arts in Public Service and Service-Learning Initiative.
“Most students use their fall break to catch up on sleep,” said Jill Levinson, a sophomore participant on the Latino Communities AFB. “I did not get to do that, but my tiredness is different now. With APPLES Alternative Fall Break I learned about all the issues facing Latino communities, what’s being done about them and how I can get involved.”
“Hand me a coffee, because I may never catch up on my sleep.”
The 12 students on the Latino Communities experience had the opportunity to learn and serve communities through El Pueblo, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the Latino community and promoting cross-cultural understanding, and Student Action with Farmworkers during their experience in Newton Grove, North Carolina.
The Rural Community break went to Pembroke, North Carolina and visited with the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center and served in a variety of educational and health settings. Both the Arts in Public Service and Service-Learning experiences went to Asheville, North Carolina. Through the Arts in Public Service experience, participants served with Asheville BookWorks, Our VOICE, Montford Park Players and The Mandorla. Students on the Environmental Issues break experience went to the Outer Banks where they cleaned the beach shoreline and visited the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.
The Urban Community experience was the only experience where students traveled outside of the state. The group of 12 went to Washington, D.C. While at the nation’s capital, they served at local elementary and high schools and community centers like the Perry School Community Service Center.
“My Alternative Fall Break trip with APPLES was unforgettable and a rewarding experience,” said Ashley Jiron, a junior who participated in the Latino Communities AFB. “If I could replay this past weekend, I would because it was so impactful.”