By Kristen Burke
Senior, Political Science major
Who would give up their break from school to do community service anyway? According to Break Away, the national non-profit that supports alternative break programs, about 14,000 college students across the nation are doing so. Believe it or not, over 300 of those students can be found here, at the University of Florida, participating in trips with Florida Alternative Breaks (FAB).
A student-run organization, Florida Alternative Breaks organizes service trips over several different academic breaks each year. With service-learning adventures at the end of summer, during winter break, Martin Luther King Weekend, and Spring Break, FAB offers a number of opportunities to students; there are twenty-four trips on the table for this upcoming school year. Each excursion is focused on a specific social justice issue, ranging from environmental preservation to homelessness and poverty. The trips are based on a model of education, service, and reflection; participants are then able develop a deep understanding of the community their trip is aiming to serve.
Florida Alternative Breaks trips aren’t just a way to earn community service hours or visit an interesting, new place. FAB’s vision is to create active citizens—that is, individuals who place the community as a priority in their everyday lives. Through pre-trip meetings and education, strong and direct service on each trip, and meaningful reflection on the service, FAB seeks to change students’ perspectives and open their eyes and hearts to social injustices and their root causes.
Previous participants can attest to the power of an alternative break experience. Matletha Fuller, a member of the UF Honors Program and Lombardi & Stamps scholarship, served as a Site Leader on the 2013 Martin Luther King Weekend Youth Empowerment trip. According to Fuller, “FAB was an exciting opportunity to branch out and realize the effect of true service, even when you cannot see the direct change that you have made. I was able to learn and grow with a family of like-minded individuals, and watching them grow and progress on their journeys towards active citizenship was so fulfilling.”
If you are interested in joining the alternative break movement with FAB, there will be an Environmental Preservation trip working with the Florida Trail Association from August 9-12, just after Summer B/C concludes. Up to 14 participants will be performing trail maintenance along the Florida National Scenic Trail in St. Marks, Florida. Additionally, opportunities to serve as a Site Leader on an upcoming trip or sign-up as a participant will be available in the fall. Stop by the Center for Leadership and Service in 301 Peabody, “like” Florida Alternative Breaks on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org in order to get more information!