Students connect with the community during alternative winter break

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The winter break is typically a time when students relax and go home to visit family and friends. But for a dedicated group of students participating in APPLES Service-Learning’s alternative winter break, the idea of rest and relaxation was replaced by a desire to serve others. A group of 10 students ventured to Pembroke, N.C. to serve and learn about rural poverty. Over the course of the five-day trip, they worked with community partners to learn more about the realities and solutions to poverty in a rural setting.

As a co-leader of the alternative break group, Alyssa Wadding ’15 gained valuable experience working with her fellow students and passionate community partners. “This trip taught me a lot about what it means to be a leader and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of what can be accomplished through teamwork and persistence.”

Alternative break experiences provide students an opportunity to engage in efforts to elevate a social issue by engaging in service in a specific community. Students apply what they are learning, about rural poverty, at different sites in the area through direct and indirect service and advocacy work. The impact students end up making spreads deeper as strong and sustainable partnerships are built with the community partners that students work with during their trips.

Wadding appreciated the relationship built among the alternative break group and the community partners. Between meetings with community members, doing direct service work at the local Boys and Girls Club and a food pantry, and learning about the community’s culture, a lasting bond was formed with community partners. “I had the opportunity to work with many amazing people who came together to form a family that shared many meaningful experiences. I couldn’t have asked for better or more passionate community partners.”

A very special aspect of the alternative break process is the reflection portion of each trip. Students spend time reflecting upon their learning experiences both during the trip and following the students’ return. Wadding enjoyed the reflection process because it allowed her time to take a step back and really think about what she experienced each day and how it related back to her purpose for being on the trip. “With the whirlwind of activities it is easy to get caught up in just making it to the next event, so reflections added another dimension to the overall experience and they were definitely worthwhile.”