Immersive service and learning are core of Alternative School Break
By Shannon Sigafoos
Responding to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Encouraging female leaders to create change. Building connections with organizations fighting for migrant justice on both sides of the border. Winter break may be just six weeks long, but for students involved in Alternative School Break (ASB), those several weeks provide an opportunity for invaluable experiences that prepare them for lives of active citizenship.
Since 1993, ASB has prepared students to travel domestically and internationally in support of community service projects that help them gain awareness of critical social issues. This past January, 34 ASB students participated in trips to a refugee settlement in Atlanta, Ga., the U.S./Mexico border wall in Arizona, and to mentor and female community leaders in Honduras. Each trip focused on advocacy as well as educational elements, providing students with skills they will be able to use for a lifetime.
The destination: Honduras
The goals: peer mentoring, tutoring, and supporting local female leaders to continue creating their own business plans and developing sustainable projects in their communities.
The team: Ayllin Schoengut ’21, Daninelle Gardner ’20, Eleanor Griffiths ’22, Liz Rochricht ’21, Maddie Pearson ’22, Maria Bossert ’23, Remy Oktay ’23, Rhonea Long ’20, Ryana Jones ’20, Sophie Carr ’21
The leaders: Simba Wu ’20 and Angie Orellana ’20
What they did: The mission of Leadership Mission International in Honduras is to develop a new generation of ethical women leaders by providing exceptional academics, leadership, and community development experiences. One of LMI’s long-term goals is to become substantially self-sustainable, and the campus includes over 30 vegetable gardens that are cared for and harvested by students year-round.
“One of our specific goals was to support The Leadership Center with their goal of expanding their farm. Almost every day of our trip, we spend several hours hoeing the vegetable farm,” says Orellana. “Soon after, The Leadership Center was able to plant corn to try to help offset the increase in corn prices and the amount of corn consumption at the campus.”
A powerful moment: “[This trip] has allowed me to immerse myself in a new culture and re-evaluate my own. It focused on empowering women in developing countries through education,” says Rohricht. “I can better recognize and be thankful for the education I receive at Lafayette and for all of the opportunities that come with that. These small changes in my everyday attitude have changed the way I interact with others and think about my own life.”
The destination: Atlanta, Ga.
The goals: Exploring the root cause of the refugee crisis and examining how Lafayette can aid humanitarian actions to fight it.
The team: Trisha Agarwal ’20, Talia Baddour ’20, Shova Malla ’22, Olivia Newman ’22, Erik Laucks ’20, Cayla Mandel ’21, Aaron Shoemaker ’22, Ellie Aaberg ’21, Kate Rogers ’2The leaders: Ayat Husseini ’20 and Maria Ahmed ’20
What we did: Students volunteered in various programs at the center throughout the day. These included the resettlement shop, childcare, and education classes.
The resettlement shop is a thrift store for refugee families to acquire clothing items and home goods. Students helped organize the shop’s items and managed visiting families on shop days. The IRC offers childcare for parents who participate in adult education classes. The Lafayette team also helped take care of the 20-25 children in childcare. Lastly, students served as conversation partners and teacher’s assistants in a series of adult education classes and helped high school students with their homework at an after-school program.
A powerful moment: “As an organization, ASB stresses cultural humility and understanding our communities before we interact with them. I felt the importance of this when teaching an Afghani woman how to pronounce the English alphabet in an English as a Second Language class,” said Baddour. “We have very different backgrounds and privileges, yet we connected through the most basic human emotion: happiness.”
The destination: Tucson, Ariz.
The goals: To explore historical and current immigration policies and their impacts, build connections with people fighting for migrant justice on both sides of the border, and develop tools for positive social change in home communities.
The team: Hamna Younas ’22, Carolyn Pye ’21, Hannah Koch ’20, Isa Frye ’21, Karla Carino ’21, Kevin Manogue ’22, Nick Sant Foster ’22, Rochelle Greenidge ’20, Samantha Ganser ’23, Lourdes Juarez ’22
The leaders: Yazmin Baptiste ’20, resident adviser
What they did: “One of the broader goals of the trip was to educate people about what’s going on at the border. Often times, the politics around immigration can obscure the actual impacts immigration policies have on people, so this trip was really centered around educational purposes,” said Baptiste. “We heard stories from immigrants about the journey coming to America and the advocacy work being done. With education and volunteering happening simultaneously, I think a lot of my team members were happy about the experience.”
A powerful moment: “The most impactful parts of the trip for me were our reflection times,” said Baptiste. “I saw my team members lean into discomfort. They challenged their ideologies and really listened to the workshops that people from Borderlinks gave, which were about a range of topics like healthcare for queer immigrants, grassroot organizing, solidarity and charity, the process of immigrating legally, and describing the experience of coming to America. Some of my favorite discussions were when we talked about how being an ally involves taking risks and how white silence in the face of injustice perpetuates inequality.”