LAWRENCE — Ninety-eight students from the University of Kansas spent part of their winter breaks volunteering across the nation.
KU’s student-run Alternative Breaks program centers on service-learning trips that provide opportunities for students to include volunteer efforts in their educational experiences. KU Alternative Breaks places a strong emphasis on education and personal growth and encourages students to continue their service work beyond the break itself.
This winter, students worked with 14 different agencies in 11 different states ranging from chilly Michigan to sunny Florida. Students supported a variety of agencies’ efforts, including working with people with disabilities, preserving natural habitats and encouraging children to live healthy lifestyles. Each group volunteered for one week from Jan. 12 to Jan. 20.
Anna Hurst, a senior from Wichita, and Bailey Reimer, a senior from Shawnee, were the Alternative Winter Breaks co-directors. Hannah Sitz, a junior from Andover, and Katie Stites, a junior from Lawrence, serve as the current Alternative Break Directors. The Alternative Break faculty advisor is Sarah Crawford-Parker, and the Instructor of Record is Amanda Schwegler.
Following their admittance to the program, students attended weekly classes to prepare for their Alternative Winter Break sites. The classes provided more information about the role of a volunteer, how the nonprofit sector works, social justice issues and the importance of diversity and cultural awareness.
The program was established at KU in 1995 with a spring break trip to El Paso, Texas, under the direction of Professor Glen White in partnership with KU students. Since 1995, it has expanded to include fall, winter, summer and weekend breaks.
An Alternative Winter Break counts as one honors unit for the University Honors Program, and, if taken as a class, can count towards service learning certification. The program costs participants $275 ($225 for site leaders) and covers their transportation, housing and meals.
To learn more, visit www.kualternativebreaks.com.
The Alternative Winter Break sites:
• Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary in Austin, Texas, offers a home to more than 300 rescued or unwanted animals and provides the community with a way to learn about them. Site leaders were Stacy Galway and Chris Rice.
• The Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency in Atlanta empowers the homeless in the Atlanta area by helping them achieve economic independence. Site leaders were Stephanie Higinbotham and Alyssa Ong.
• Big Bend National Park in Alpine, Texas, is one of the largest national parks in America, with more than 800,000 acres to explore. Site leaders were Drew Bennett and Mac Tamblyn.
• CASA in Huntsville, Ala., is an organization that provides services to homebound of all ages and community members over the age of 60 while committing to maintain individuals’ independence, dignity, health and safety. Site leaders were Jessica Mitchell and Steph Stoss.
• The Cumberland Trail in Chattanooga, Tenn., is an ambitious hiking trail project, and when completed will extend 300 miles from its northern end in the Cumberland Gap National Park (Kentucky) to its southern end just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Site leaders were Ali Fisher and Erin Ice.
• Florence Crittenton Services in Charlotte, N.C., helps girls and women make positive life choices by providing medical care; social, educational, adoption and parenting support services; and drug treatment and prevention to pregnant and at-risk girls and women. Site leaders were Shelby Stewart and Amelia Wilson.
• Freedom House in Detroit is a safe haven for global survivors of persecution that are seeking legal shelter in the United States. Site leaders were Shannon Buhler and Miranda Wagner.
• Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, Fla., is a place where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are given the chance to escape into a world full of splendor, whimsy, magic and hope. Site leaders were Isabella Herrera and Beth Schirmer.
• Humane Borders in Tucson, Ariz., provides humanitarian aid, most often in the form of food and water, to migrants crossing the treacherous desert of southern Arizona. Site leaders were Grant Berning and Jenny Curatola.
• Misericordia in Chicago, which means heart of mercy, provides a residential community for adults with developmental and physical disabilities to maximize their level of independence and self-determination. Site leaders were Ellie Eastes and Lisa Pettit.
• The New Mexico GLBTQ Center in Las Cruces, N.M., collaborates with GLBTQ allies and others in rural areas of New Mexico to reduce homophobia and enrich the lives of individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning through education, advocacy, support, example and collaboration. Site leaders were Hailey Lapin and Ashley Richard.
• Playworks in Denver is part of a national organization that promotes the health and well-being of children by increasing their opportunities for physical activity and meaningful play. Site leaders were Lindsey Bloom and Brandon Rogers.
• St. Leonard’s Ministries in Chicago provides services for those released from prison by providing comprehensive resources needed to help them rebuild their lives. Site leaders were Emily Bergman and Ciara Malone.
• Teach for America in Chicago trains and places teachers in low-income communities to work to ensure that all children, regardless of background, can receive an excellent education. Site leaders were David Catt and Jordan Perlmutter.