Cornellians take Alternative Spring Breaks

For 73 Cornell College students, spring break is not going to be about relaxing and down time.

2016 Cornell College Alternative Spring Break participants in Washington, D.C.
2016 Cornell College Alternative Spring Break participants in Washington, D.C.

Instead, these students will be taking an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) to eight locations, from Louisiana to South Dakota, to be the helping hands for communities in need.

Since 2002, service-minded Cornellians have served on ASB trips, where they not only help others but learn beneficial skills and an understanding of current issues. Eight groups of Cornell students have spent the year planning their trips, fundraising, and educating themselves about the issues relevant to their service site.

One group will be traveling to Waco, Texas, with Cornell President Jonathan Brand and his spouse, Rachelle LaBarge, as their advisors. Their group will work with World Hunger Relief on sustainable agriculture, food accessibility, and poverty. This includes work on the organization’s farm and participating in urban garden development and community outreach.

The group’s student leaders, Rachel Moline, MariKate Murphy, and Carly Pierson, knew they wanted the president as their advisor but weren’t sure he’d be able to take the time.  

“Rachel, MariKate, and I know President Brand from all the runs and workouts he’s participated in with us during our cross-country and track seasons. He always brings a smile to our faces with his enthusiasm,” Pierson said.

Murphy said they look forward to getting to know Brand and his wife in an entirely new setting. “Their willingness to take a week off of work and do manual labor with us shows their dedication to the students at Cornell and the unique environment that they have created at Cornell,” said Murphy. “We are looking forward to getting to know them better on this trip.”

Pierson participated in ASB last year with the Refugee Immigration Ministry in Boston. Her experience there convinced her to lead a group this year. “The ASB program is a wonderful opportunity for students to re-align themselves with what they care about, and to remember that there is more to life than our Hilltop, although we love it here. There is a great big, beautifully chaotic world out there and ASB is a reminder that we, too, are a part of it, and we too can make a difference.”

The ASB kickoff dinner is March 8. Groups will depart over the following three days. The 2017 projects and destinations are:

  • World Hunger Relief, Waco, Texas
  • Animal welfare at the Bird Gardens of Naples and Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, Naples, Florida
  • STE(A)M education at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Community development with Real Food Farm, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Disaster relief with Community Collaborations International, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Native American rights with Re-Member, Pine Ridge, South Dakota
  • Urban youth and education: Create Your Dreams, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Women’s rights: Women’s Bean Project, Denver, Colorado

The trips, sponsored by the college’s Office of Civic Engagement, , follow the Break Away approach. Established by the national leader in coordinating and spearheading the Alternative Spring Break movement, the Break Away model includes eight components: Strong direct service, orientation, education, training, reflection, reorientation, diversity, and alcohol and drug-free environments.