Marco Quiroz-Gutierrez The Daily Tar Heel
While most students are relaxing during their time off this fall break, the students participating in the APPLES alternative fall break will be helping communities in need all over North Carolina.
Since it was founded by undergraduates in 1990, the APPLES Service-Learning program has allowed students to learn through various types of civic engagement outside the classroom.
Becca Bender, a program officer for student programs at APPLES, said there are seven different focuses for the alternative fall break programs which are each led entirely by two student leaders.
“The fact that it’s all student-run, plus the service experience, is what makes alternative fall break really special,” Bender said.
Sophomore Alexandra Smith, a co-leader for a group, is headed to Asheville to work with Our VOICE, an organization that serves victims of sexual violence. She said that the groups were kept intentionally small.
“There’s only eight of us total, because we wanted to keep it small so that everybody could get to know each other better and so that way we could form more of a bond and be able to understand this more,” she said.
Smith said the work her group is doing is especially important to her.
“Every single woman and honestly every sort of minority has experienced some sort of case of unwanted sexual conduct in some way, shape or form, and I feel like it’s something that really isn’t talked about and isn’t taken seriously by groups that need to be targeted,” she said.
Bender said every program has a unique theme, and helps a different type of community. This includes a program aiming to help rural North Carolina communities and a new program aiming to assist refugees in Greensboro.
Alternative fall break co-chair, senior Simran Khadka, said they started the new refugee program to help students better relate to this diverse community.
“The best part of learning about these communities is working with community partners and learning about the community members themselves,” she said.
Bender said the programs cover a variety of themes, but all except for one of the seven groups will stay in North Carolina. Keeping it regional provides accessibility for participants.
“We like to keep the programs within North Carolina to create sustainable partnerships so that we can continue working in those locations, and also to make the trips affordable and accessible for students,” she said.
Khadka said every student at UNC should participate in one of the alternative break programs. She thinks the community involvement can enrich the college experience.
“It made me rethink a lot of my college involvement and what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, because you get to work with community partners who dedicate their lives working on a certain issue,” she said.
Khadka said learning during an alternative break trip is a way to expand your horizons.
“It’s really easy to learn about the importance of something in a classroom, but it’s eye-opening seeing that happen in the real world.”