Alternative Spring Breaks
Opportunities for flexing one's "community building muscles" occurs not only in the Yonkers and greater NYC when classes are in session, but also during spring break where students can venture to communities outside the metro area. Through the Office of Community Partnerships students who take part in SLC's alternate spring break trip live cooperatively for a week while working with a local non-profit, most often a Habitat for Humanity affiliate, to accomplish a project. The work during the week can range from framing a house to hanging siding. To get to that point, however, students meet regularly together to bond, establish principles for community living, and fundraise to support the trip.
Organization of Trip
The selected cohort of students plays an integral role in crafting the trip. Together with the advisor in Community Partnerships, the participants choose a viable service site and craft a budget based off the prices for housing, transportation, food, and miscellaneous costs. These decisions have implications for the group, as they are required to generate the money for these programs through various fundraising efforts.
Despite these variances, the trips can follow a certain set of expectations. The days are full with on-site work and can start reasonably early (8:30 or 9 a.m.) and go the entirety of the day (4:30 or 5 p.m.). This does leave some time in the evenings for group bonding, relaxation, and reflection. The principle focus of the week, however, is in performing and accomplishing the tasks set out by the community organization.
Often there will be a variety of different level of tasks at the worksite, but this depends on any particular project. Some work can be quite physical while other tasks might be more cognitive. For the most part the work is performed outdoors under the supervision of a site coordinator. Some onsite training may be offered, and the group works together to ensure people feel comfortable in the task assigned to them.
Living conditions at the site are very basic. In the past, groups have slept on cots and mats on church floors or similar facilities. Shower facilities are either at the living site or arrangements have been made to use the shower facilities at a local YMCA or civic organization. While it might not sound glamorous, these steps are taken to keep costs down and bring the group together. Exhaustion (see above) usually makes up for the bed sheets' dismally low thread counts.
Meals, more often than not, are cooked within the living site with different participants responsible for developing and preparing dinner each night. Sometimes the host organization arranges lunches and dinners for the work crews, but this can vary greatly.
Participants, thus, have opportunities to hone skills in leadership, budgeting, fund generation, and even cooking.
Application for the Trip
Students interested in participating in an alternative break trip must complete an application. The application, due in mid-October, is followed by an interview. The process allows Community Partnerships to assemble a strong cohort to provide the best experience for the participants and the community-based organization.