Challenge yourself, challenge the world
As many of us prepare for our tropical spring break vacations, Alternative Spartan Breaks (ASB) participants are loading up their vans and preparing for a week-long service trip to one of 17 different locations.
ASB is an MSU organization that sends small groups (nine participants, two site leaders and one MSU partner) to different communities all around the country in the hopes of making a positive difference in that community. Participants apply for a trip that is centered on a social issue they are most interested in. Before each trip, participants do a pre-trip service in the East Lansing/Lansing community. For those worried about pricing, ASB trips are low cost and extensive fundraising is available.
ASB is far from your average service organization. Beyond service opportunities, ASB encourages students to grow as active and educated citizens. Participants are able to educate themselves first-hand about social issues they may not be exposed to here in East Lansing, all while making a positive impact in new and diverse communities.
“Participants choose their trip based on a social issue they’re passionate about,” ASB Communications Chair and professional writing senior Samantha Ward explained.
Participants have the opportunity to tailor their volunteer experience to heighten their major and professional experience.
“People who are in the pre-med program may be interested in helping those with HIV. Education majors can work in classrooms with Cherokee students and Criminal Justice majors may be interested in the incarceration trip,” said Ward.
There are trips for any major and interest and they are always offering more options based on current social issues and participants’ interests.
ASB participants aren’t sure of the location of their trip until after they’ve been accepted and commit. This ensures that the Spartan-breakers are passionate about the cause rather than the location of their vacation. Trips can include anything from clearing and constructing our National Park’s trails to building low income housing. Participants go into their service trip with an open mind and a specific, set goal. Rather than blindly helping communities, ASB works with organizations within each community to do what they feel is needed — anything as simple as helping homeless mothers purchase bus passes to working directly with at-risk youth.
Alternative Spartan Breakers recognize that they can’t save the world over one week-long trip.
“Our big focus this year is knowing that we’re not going to change the world, in a different community, in a week. We don’t know anything about the community until we get there,” explained Ward. “But we can learn from them. We’re trying to take in as much knowledge and education as we can so that we can bring it back to East Lansing and to our hometowns. So that we can make a change where our voices are encouraged.”
The programs themselves are created with this idea in mind. Participants are required to participate in a post-trip service where they bring back what they learned from their Spartan break and translate that experience to help the communities around them.
“[ASB] will change your life,” says ASB Finance Coordinator, human development and family studies senior Sydney Tackett. “You get in a van with 11 strangers and come back with 11 best friends.”
Participating in ASB is a great way to make friends if you’ve yet to find your “people” and want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals that all have one commonality — to make a positive impact on the world.
“Before my ASB involvement, I could only see an overwhelming amount of problems in our world with an underwhelming amount of solutions. Now, I see a bright generation of active citizens on the rise and a greater grasp on how to tackle these issues. I’ve grown to see so much hope,” adds ASB Outreach Coordinator and comparative culture and politics major, Tiffany Khoury.
“For anyone looking for a way to dabble outside their comfort zone, Alternative Spartan Breaks is an amazing opportunity to do so. An alternative break is so much more than a week of volunteer work,” said, Khoury. “It broadens perspectives, sparks informed and thoughtful dialogue, plants seeds of curiosity and builds deep-rooted friends that can only blossom from sharing the way, way back of a van for 12 hours.”
After long days of hard work, Alternative Spartan Breakers have a bit of time to explore whichever city they’re located in and to really reflect on their service and the overarching impact they’re having on the community.
“Watching participants go from strangers to lifelong friends and watching widely known stereotypes be dismantled is an incredible thing to see. It’s impossible to take an alternative break and not come back a little different than you were before you left,” said Khoury.
While it may be too late to sign up for an upcoming spring break trip, ASB offers various weekend trips throughout the school year and winter break trips for the 2017 semester. Learn more about Alternative Spartan Breaks by visiting asb.msu.edu and follow them on social media @MSUASB. Be sure to keep up with your fellow Spartan spring breakers on social media this March by tracking #msuasb.
We hope learning about ASB has inspired you to make a difference here on campus or even in your own community. For more volunteer opportunities within the MSU community, visit servicelearning.msu.edu.
As noted by Anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Hannah Bullion is a junior professional writing major with an interest in all things new media. She hopes to flee the Midwest and pursue a career in fashion in New York City. She is also the social media director for MSU’s fashion and lifestyle publication, VIM Magazine, and an intern for the College of Arts & Letters. Keep up with her on Twitter (@hannahmbullion) and Instagram (@hannahbullion).