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Students Have Unforgettable Experiences Giving Back Across the Country

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An Alternative Break is a trip where a team of students engage in meaningful community service during a break in the academic year – but these trips are more than that. “For our students, Alternative Breaks are life-changing adventures in our backyard and across the globe,” said Jessica Gagne Cloutier, coordinator of community service. “Eating BBQ in Memphis, watching the sun rise over a volcano in Nicaragua, taking their first flight or long road trip, building a family of friends, inspiring a career path, or opening the door to a post-graduation job—Alternative Break does that all while empowering students to take action that supports the global community.”

Over winter break, five groups of students engaged with Alternative Break trips across the southern and mid-Atlantic states, each focusing on a different theme and service opportunity. Check out what some of the Alternative Break leaders thought about their experiences below!

Remembering Veterans
Members of this alternative break group: Colin Bent, Davis Bernstein, Lauren Christie, Emily Foy, Isabelle Handy, Jack Hanson, Nicole Jones, Lindsey Ljungberg, Ashley Ruston, and Michelle Zanca.

Remembering Those Who Served

Ten students traveled to Washington, DC, for the weekend to join thousands of volunteers participating in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery to honor and remember our nation’s veterans. “This trip was really impactful because as I laid wreaths and said the names of the veterans who were buried, I was able to build a deeper connection with our nation’s veterans in a way that I could not do anywhere else. I have a stronger sense of gratitude for the sacrifices these people have made for our country. I think it is important for students to participate in Alternative Break because it gives students an opportunity to make a positive impact in the community and build a stronger sense of self,” said Lindsey Ljungberg ’21.

Education and Equality
Back row: Kayla Butterworth, Madison Olsen, Alyssa True, Meghan Gauss, Elissa Parker. Front row: Riley Matthews, Jenna Gage, Nadia Hasan

Education and Equality

Students traveled to Memphis, TN, to work with children in classrooms and after-school programs. They also helped beautify urban neighborhoods where the children live. “My experience in Memphis is one that I will never forget. As an education major, a trip focused on education and equality really brought my skills to life and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of our system. Because of this trip, my passion to be an educator has grown even stronger and that is all thanks to Alternative Break,” said Madison Olsen ’20.

Safe Housing
Back row, left to right: Morgan Rosen, Samantha Baker, Haley Driver, Madison Pawela. Front row, left to right: Jennifer Weston, Emilee Haselton, Cayla Hanson.

Safe Housing

A group of seven students traveled to North Carolina and spent four days making urgent, safety-related repairs to a Navy veteran’s home. “It was really nice to meet the homeowner and see the impact our work had in his day-to-day life,” said Jennifer Weston ’20. “I would definitely recommend an Alternative Break trip to someone who is looking to give back to their community,” continued Madison Pawela ’21. “It’s a really good way to meet students who are part of different clubs, organizations, and majors. We spent a lot of time together and really got to know each other.”

Alternative Spring Break - Urban Plunge
Left to right: Alex Kennedy, Lauren Christie, Meghan Gauss, Danny Acerno, Liza Joseph, Robert Sturtevant, Anna DePasquale, Okwii Van Horn (Medici Project staff member), Jennifer Lopez, Alana Lehouillier, and Lillian Chase at the nonprofit Books for Africa.

Urban Plunge

Students traveled to Georgia and partnered with the Medici Project, a nonprofit focused on educating and exposing volunteers to the realities of poverty for at-risk urban youths of Atlanta. Students’ service included visits to schools, homeless shelters, meals on wheels, and Books for Africa. “Wrapping up my last Alternative Break trip as a Keene State student was bittersweet, but it also reminded me of why this program is so important,” said Anna DePasquale ’20. “Working with various nonprofits, including an after-school program in Clarkston for the past two years, has sparked my interest in youth development. The Alternative Break Program has shown me that my passion lies within service, which has pushed me to pursue a career in the non-profit field post-graduation.”

Wilderness Adventure
Top row (left to right): Charlie Rhodarmer (Director of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum), Slesha Tuladhar, Ashley Ruston, Catherine Cloutier, Isabelle Handy, and Craig Bucci. Bottom row (left to right): Madison Coffey, Courtney Chouinard, Daniella Giese, Matthew Griffin, and Ed Decker (site host).

Wilderness Adventure

Nine students traveled to Once Upon A Time, a wilderness retreat located between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cherokee National Forest in Maryville, TN. They learned about protecting culture and environment; participated in service activities with indigenous communities, trail restoration, and traditional homesteading; and spent their evenings with storytelling around bonfires. “We were able to learn more about the Cherokee culture, more specifically the social and health issues they are facing,” said Catherine Cloutier ’20. “It was interesting to learn more about a different culture than my own. I think it’s important to participate in Alternative Break trips as they allow us to see from a different lens. These experiences also get you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to learn new skills. For example, we learned how to use a log splitter, wood stove, and leaf blower, all abilities I didn’t have before.”

Learn more about Alternative Breaks at Keene State and apply for an upcoming trip.

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