Students Become Active Citizens Through Alternative Spartan Breaks

March 7, 2016

While many Spartans spent their spring break soaking up sun on the beach, several others have opted for a much different experience. Each winter and spring, hundreds of students spend their designated break educating themselves on social issues across the country and serving communities that are directly affected by these issues through the MSU Alternative Spartan Breaks (ASB) program.

Who wouldn’t be down to travel to new locations while becoming an active citizen with fellow Spartans? ASB is the Michigan State Chapter of the national Break Away organization. According to their website, the mission of ASB is to encourage the active citizenship of its students through quality service opportunities, education about social issues, and exposure to diverse cultures and communities.

 So, where are they going, you may ask? That’s a surprise that depends on the type of service the student is interested in. When someone joins an ASB trip, they choose that trip based solely on one of the many social issues that the ASB is exploring. Each trip is focused on a social issue in a unique location that may be as close as Kentucky or as far away as Costa Rica.

Darcy Greer, Executive Coordinator of ASB, described the trip as life-changing, saying that students have changed their career paths as a result of this program. Greer is a senior majoring in applied engineering sciences at MSU. Among her experiences with ASB, she has traveled to New Orleans for humanizing HIV/AIDS and to New York City to explore issues related to the LGBTQ community.

“For me it’s been the best part of my experience at MSU,” Greer said. “I’ve gained so many new perspectives and have met so many people that I never would have crossed paths with. You get to surround yourself like-minded individuals who are passionate about social change and making the world a better place. I think it’s a really cool thing to experience.”

According to the ASB website, some of the social issues that will be addressed this spring range from indigenous rights/education and veteran affairs, to disabilities and special needs and environmental issues. 

Greer said that each trip costs $425, with some costing a bit more depending on whether or not they require airfare. This cost includes transportation, food, and also housing.

Incorporated with the service, there are eight components to each program. These components include issue specific education sessions prior to departing, as well as a reorientation in which students can share their experience and learn about the other service trips that were attended by their colleagues.

Greer mentioned that after serving their communities, many students enjoy free-time to explore the locations together with the eleven other students on their trip.

 “You leave East Lansing as a group of strangers and come back as a family,” Greer said. “It sounds kind of crazy, but it happens on every trip you go on. You spend all week together so intertwined that you really do grow together as a family.”

 Applications for 2016-2017 trips are due by the Fall. In addition to winter and spring break opportunities, ASB also hosts service trips all year round, including weekend service trips.

If you're interested serving your community visit http://www.asb.msu.edu/ and get involved today!

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