Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Students learn about and serve in communities during Alternative Spring Break

Courtesy of Akhila John
Students on an Alternative Spring Break trip to Washington D.C.

At 6:30 am on March 12, Akhila John found herself sitting at Logan Airport waiting for a flight to her spring break destination. But unlike thousands of other college students making similar treks, John wasn’t going to a beach.

John, along with around 40 other Suffolk students, was on her way to Alternative Spring Break. 

ASB is an annual program run by the Center for Community Engagement for students to provide service to communities across the country and to learn how to get involved with issues they care about, explained Director of the CCE Adam Westbrook.

“It’s about getting students to travel to different communities to learn about a community issue,” Westbrook said. “[Participants] travel for a week, they’re working and meeting with community partners, and they come back with the idea that they tie what they learned back to the Boston community.”

This year’s students had the opportunity to choose between one of four trips, each focused on a different sector of social justice, Westbrook said. Students could choose from Minneapolis for a racial justice trip, Washington D.C. for a reproductive rights trip, Virginia for an environmental trip or Denver for a Habitat for Humanity trip. The four trips were based on student interests.

“With the way the last few years have gone, a lot of these issues are really top of mind for students,” Westbrook said.

This is the first time the CCE has offered a reproductive rights trip. While this is not the first racial justice trip, Westbrook said it was the first time they went to Minneapolis. The CCE has offered Habitat for Humanity trips and environmental trips to the Prince William National Forest in the past, but interest in these two was still strong.

John, a senior biology major, participated in the reproductive rights trip to Washington D.C., citing her interests in healthcare.

“It’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart,” John said. “Yes, I am an advocate but not so much that I feel I can personally do anything about it. This was a good first step.”

John and others on this trip visited Planned Parenthood and heard from Catholics for Choice, among other speakers. She said the opportunity to hear from a variety of different groups was a great learning experience.

“All I knew [about Planned Parenthood] was that they provided Plan B and other birth control,” John said. “They do so much more, it’s insane and it’s something people should utilize.”

Morgan Coleman, a sophomore advertising major, attended the environmental trip to Prince William National Forest, located just outside of Quantico, Virginia.

Coleman wanted to attend to get involved with environmentalism and to spend time with friends, both new and old.

“I thought it would be fun to get something worthy out of the trip rather than just going and sitting at home,” Coleman said.

At the Prince William National Forest, Coleman worked in a team with others on the trip to complete conservation projects throughout the park. Students replaced a bog walk, cleared water diversions, removed invasive species and demolished a shed built illegally on the property.

Looking back, Coleman said she learned about plants, environments and invasive species through these projects. She said the work was fulfilling.

“My favorite part was doing the hard work because at the end of the day it was really rewarding to do the work they needed help on,” Coleman said. “It was a lot of hard work but it was really fun doing it and working as a team.”

Coleman said while the trip may not be a traditional spring break trip, it was refreshing. 

Another part of the program, according to Westbrook, is the series of meetings hosted by ASB leaders before the trip itself. Westbrook said the meetings focus on team building and understanding the nuances of community-based work.

“They go through a social justice curriculum that focuses on understanding our identities and how that plays out when we’re going into communities,” Westbrook said.

Westbrook said he is excited for next year’s ASB and encouraged students to attend. He explained that the program is a great opportunity for students to get involved with national issues and community opportunities across the country.

“If you’re even a little bit interested in what’s happening in the world and any of these community issues, this is a great opportunity to throw yourself in,” Westbrook said. “This is a really great first step to actually get started.”

Coleman, who wants to return to ASB next year, wholeheartedly agreed with Westbrook’s opinion.

“It’s worth it, everyone should definitely try it,” Coleman said. “It was worth every penny and I loved it so much.”

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About the Contributor
William Woodring, News Editor | he/him
Will is a senior majoring in public relations. He is originally from Medway, Ma. In his free time, he enjoys listening to music, writing, reading, and running. He is interested in political journalism and hopes to go into politics after graduating. Follow Will on Twitter @woodringwill

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Students learn about and serve in communities during Alternative Spring Break