Students head out on Alternative Break trips

Cornell students are gearing up to travel across the country for an intensive week of volunteer work with organizations that focus on issues they are passionate about.

Students in Macon, Georgia during the Cornell Alternative Break over the winter
Students in Georgia, during Cornell Alternative Break over the winter

This year groups will travel to Tennessee, Ohio, and Michigan. Each team has a group of participants, two student leaders organizing the trip, and a faculty or staff advisor. Many students have spent the year planning their trips, fundraising, and educating themselves about the issues relevant to their service site.

“One of the things I love about service of any sort is that one always grows as a person if it is done correctly,” said David DeMoss ’19, who is leading the trip to Cincinnati, Ohio. “Service is something that is too often heralded as something that people do as an extra way of giving back to the community and world; but for me, I firmly believe that service and healthy, respectful advocacy should be a continuous never-ending essential part of any human’s life. It shouldn’t be heralded, it should be normalized.”

Where are they going?

Eleven students will take off for Hohenwald, Tennessee, to work with The Elephant Sanctuary on animal welfare issues. They’ll work to improve structures for the safety of the animals.

Nine students will travel to Rockwood, Tennessee, to work with Cumberland Trails. The Cumberland Trail runs through all of Tennessee, and it relies on groups to provide labor to make significant progress. The group will be doing tasks such as cutting into the sides of hills and building rock bridges across streams to make a solid walking trail.

Six students will dedicate their spring breaks to improve gender-based violence issues by working with Women Helping Women in Cincinnati, Ohio. The group will largely work on projects to upgrade facilities. The entire group went through survivor-advocacy training to support clients they may come into contact with and to be better educated about the issues this organization is addressing.

Four students will leave for Detroit, Michigan, to work with The Ruth Ellis Center, which provides residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless, and at-risk LGBTQ youth. Cornell students will work on cleaning and organizing at the center so it can continue to provide quality services and resources. The group will also prepare safe sex kits, informational folders, and other educational resources to give to the community.

Each participant pays $125 to go on the alternative breaks and groups fundraise to cover any remaining costs. That fee covers travel, housing, meals at the site, a T-shirt, and site fees or donations. Student Senate provides the remaining funding needed for each trip, which is more than half of the cost. As part of the trip, students must also take part in an educational activity in the area.

On Friday, March 29, the students will give a poster presentation in the lobby of the Thomas Commons to share their experiences and educate their peers and the Cornell community about issues around the country. Cornell College’s Bon Appétit will be serving meals that day featuring food from the different service trip locations such as Detroit style pizza and southern mac and cheese.