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

Suffolk students serve communities across the nation for Alternative Spring Break

Students on the trip to Laredo, Texas work with Habitat for Humanity to build a house in the community on the U.S.-Mexico Border. | Courtesy of Raffaella Shanahan.

As colleges across the country hit pause for spring break, 60 Suffolk students prepared for a different kind of trip.

Students on the Center for Community Engagement’s Alternative Spring Break traveled to locations across the United States to work with activists, service groups and nonprofits while doing service in their host communities. 

The annual trip brought students to five locations, each focusing on a different issue: Prince Williams Forest, Virginia, to work on environmental issues; Laredo, Texas, and Bel Air, Maryland to work with Habitat for Humanity; New Orleans for Racial Justice and New York City to work on LGBTQ+ issues.

“This department itself emphasizes experiential learning, getting students outside of their normal learning environment and getting hands-on opportunities and this is just one of the programs that does that. This program itself is a week-long service trip based on a certain social justice curriculum and it takes the students outside of Massachusetts,” Mena Vollano, the CCE’s administrative coordinator and ASB organizer, said to The Suffolk Journal.

Connor Hayward, who worked on service projects at the Prince Williams Forest in Virginia, emphasized that while this type of service is not traditionally associated with spring break, giving back to communities both near and far was rewarding and interesting.

“It was a lot of fun!” said Hayward. “I met some great people in the Suffolk community [and] it was a great time doing something different for once instead of going home for break.”

Sophomore Rafaella Shanahan, a sophomore broadcast journalism major, participated in the Habitat for Humanity trip to Loredo, Texas. Shanahan and others working with Habitat for Humanity built a house that will soon provide an affordable home. 

Through building this house, students connected with each other while utilizing many skill sets, according to Shanahan.

“I got to exercise mental and physical skills while also working alongside a super fun group of students,” Shanahan said.

Support from the Loredo community was clear, according to Shanahan. She felt welcomed by both Habitat for Humanity and the community itself.

“I could feel the love and community of Laredo. [Habitat for Humanity] is well respected in Laredo, so different restaurants donated lunch to us as a token of appreciation. The people working for [Habitat for Humanity] were friendly, generous and great teachers,” said Shanahan.

Beyond working with the community, Shanahan said she learned skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. Building a house, she said, was an opportunity to experience something new in a safe and rewarding environment.

“I never dreamed of working power tools, but I’m proud to report that I can successfully and safely handle a metal saw,” said Shanahan

These trips highlight many of the different ways that students can serve their communities, according to Vollano. While students in Texas, Maryland and Virginia, focused on physical work, students in New York and New Orleans examined community advocacy through activism.

Danny Metri, who attended this year’s trip to New York, said the program connected students to LGBTQ+ activism in the city through working with local pillars in the community. Metri highlighted a visit to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a program that works to combat gender discrimination with an emphasis on the intersectionality of gender, race and other identities.

“New York was so much fun, and we had the privilege to meet hardworking and passionate activists and leaders, which made for an overall inspiring experience,” said Metri.

After returning home, Shanahan said she is happy she was able to attend the trip.

“It was an amazing experience and as soon as I left I was ready to do it again,” Shanahan said.

News Editor Sarah Roberts contributed to the reporting of this article.

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William Woodring
William Woodring, Senior Editor-at-Large | he/him
Will is a senior majoring in public relations. He is originally from Medway, Massachusetts. 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 X @woodringwill

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