By Katie Houser
You may be surprised to learn that the Bennion Center houses a nationally acclaimed program right here on our University of Utah campus: the Alternative Break program which facilitates teams of college students to engage in community service and experiential learning during Fall and Spring Breaks. This program is almost as old as the freshman student sitting next to you in class. Dispatching students since 1997, the program allows students to leave behind the world of the library, books, and labs, to enter distant communities all over the Western United States that are grappling with poverty, prejudice, HIV/AIDS, hunger, and environmental degradation.
Participants have the opportunity to spend a week or a weekend serving various on-site organizations that have a mission that aligns with the trip topic. At this point you may be wondering, “Why is this is on the sustainability blog?” The Alternative Break program organizes 14 different trips, ranging from LGBTQ/Human Rights to Coastal Ecosystem Restoration. Students who are passionate about sustainability, urban environmentalism, or ecosystem degradation can travel to Santa Cruz, Arcata, Portland, or Point Reyes to work with and to learn about these issues through hands on experience.
Don’t just take my word for it, here are some comments from past participants.
“Attending the Monterey Bay Aquarium – it showed so much diversity of marine life and also exposed issues those animals are facing. It also incorporated pretty much all of the elements we had talked about all week—plastic, use/waste, climate change, water quality, and volunteer/community/political action. It was a great chance to learn about the issues and also gain an appreciation/fascination for marine life.” Described a Coastal Ecosystem Restoration Participant.
“We helped start a community garden. Within a couple of hours, you could see how much progress had been made. I learned that it’s so easy to get things done when everyone has a common goal in mind.” Explained an Urban Environmentalism Participant.
If you’re not sold yet, check out the Alternative Breaks’ website! Applications close Friday, November 13, at 11:59pm.