By Janell Smith
Since the 1990s, alternative breaks have been a defining experience of the APPLES Service-Learning program. On Oct. 15, APPLES continued with its traditional alternative break structure and sent 70 students to communities across the state and mid-Atlantic region.
Though the basic framework of the breaks remains, much has changed since the first alternative break and the program continues to evolve. This year’s Alternative Fall Break (AFB) program introduced three new components: Service, Engagement, Enrichment and Development (SEED) orientations, the Arts in Public Service break experience and a carbon-free initiative.
On Saturday, Oct. 4, approximately 70 select students gathered for a pre-orientation in the Student Union to prepare for the various APPLES AFB experiences on which they would embark.
“Students were very receptive to the pre-orientation, which was complemented by a re-orientation on Oct. 26 after the students’ return,” said senior program officer of APPLES Service-Learning Leslie Parkins.
Pre-orientations are meant to familiarize break participants with the APPLES approach to community engagement and the importance of reflection before the break. Sa’a Mohammed, a junior psychology major and participant on the Urban Communities alternative break, attended the pre-orientation.
“My group was really diverse and each individual brought something different and really valuable to this experience,” Mohammed said. “It was great to meet the group before leaving for the actual trip and to truly learn about service-learning as well.”
Similar to the pre-orientation, the re-orientation provided break participants with the opportunity continue the service-center spirit they cultivated during the break. Christina Galardi, graduate assistant for Alternative Breaks, said this inaugural reorientation was a powerful experience, as it was the first conversation of its kind where students reflected and brainstormed ideas to further the service they began in their break experience in other communities.
“We don’t want [the break] to feel like an isolated experience,” Galardi said. “[Students] come back from the experience very energized and we wanted to give them a forum to channel that energy and focus it on how they could actually use it to feed back into their studies and feed back into their impact on campus.”
Arts in Public Service
APPLES launched a new break experience this fall as well. Participants on the Arts in Public Service break harnessed their creativity by incorporating it into service. The break was created through a collaborative grant between APPLES and Carolina Performing Arts and aims to use art as a form of service and community building.
Break leaders Aditi Borde and Kelly Pope, students who are both involved in arts ranging from musical theater to belly dancing, were excited to help students draw new connections between arts and public service through their AFB experience.
“I see the arts as a universal way to communicate,” Pope said. “My hope is that [participants] expand their knowledge on what the ‘arts’.
“I want them to take their new understanding of this art — and all the different art mediums — and use it to communicate, to relate to other people and to provide service ultimately. It can be done, and it is being done.”
Borde, Pope and 10 other UNC students traveled to Asheville, North Carolina during the break, where they discovered how both art and service has become integral to the Asheville community.
The group explored a variety of museums in the Asheville area, including the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design, Black Mountain College Museum, the Folk Art Center, the Asheville Pinball Museum, the Asheville Area Arts Council and a book press. They completed services projects with the Asheville Community Theater, creating bowls that were then donated to a local homeless shelter.
The pair is hopeful that this groundbreaking experience has forged sustainable relationships with the community, which will help the alternative break endure for years to come.
Daniel Irvin, a junior and AFB co-chair, hopes to incorporate sustainability into APPLES alternative breaks in a different way.
Inspired by a 2011 change at Appalachian State University, where the university’s Alternative Service Experience programs practice carbon neutrality and simple living, Irvin piloted a similar environmentally sustainable initiative with APPLES AFB Environmental Issues.
“I wanted to bring it to APPLES for two reasons,” Irvin said. “I thought it lined up perfectly with our ideals of critically thinking about service, and figuring out how to make our service better. Making a commitment to make all our breaks carbon-neutral shows that we are thinking about how our lives affect the rest of the world, both on break trips and off them.”
During the fall break, APPLES participants tracked their carbon emissions, calculating just how much carbon they emitted. These calculations will help the students determine how many trees need to be planted to counterbalance their emissions. To promote carbon neutrality, Irvin plans to partner with UNC groundskeeper for a tree-planting day.
“My second reason [for focusing on this carbon-neutral initiative] was that I thought a big tree-planting day would be a fun way to bring all the breaks together after our trips were over, similar to the big service days we always try to do.
“Usually when APPLES refers to sustainability, it is in the context of sustainable community partnerships and the like. However, I think environmental sustainability can still play a part in APPLES’s sustainability because it shows our commitment to a sustainable world.”
With SEED orientations, the Arts in Public Service break experience and the carbon neutral initiative, a spirit of renewal and excitement has been planted in APPLES AFB.