Alternative Spring Breaks
Opportunities for flexing one's "community building muscles" occur in the Yonkers and greater NYC area 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 trips live cooperatively for a week while working with a local non-profit to complete a project. The work during the week can range from framing a house with a Habitat for Humanity Chapter to gardening on a communal farm. To get to that point, throughout the prior semester students meet regularly to bond, to establish principles for community living, and to fundraise to support the trip.
Organization of Trip
The selected cohort of students play an integral role in designing one of two trips each year. With an advisor in Community Partnerships, student leaders choose a viable community 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.
Each trip, while different in terms of work and location, 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 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 their assigned tasks.
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 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 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.