By Justin Williford
For many University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students, spring break 2019 was a time to engage with the state and region that they call home. With APPLES Service-Learning, a program of the Carolina Center for Public Service, over 50 students participated in the Alternative Spring Break trip. The student-led, staff-supported program combines academic learning in the classroom with an immersive eight-day service experience during spring break.
Robert Pleasants, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and instructor for the Alternative Spring Break course, says that the course is designed for students to reflect on their own definitions of service and what makes service effective. In the course, participants read literature and have critical discussions related to better practices in engaged service. Students approach their Alternative Spring Break experience through a lens of asset-based sustainable social change, with an emphasis on listening to the community-identified needs.
“[The course] allows you to think about what service means to you and find ways to lead a life of integrity where you put that into practice,” said Pleasants. Through an emphasis on group collaboration and hearing the perspectives of others, students take what they gain from their in-class dialogues, and apply them to their own philosophies of service.