Coming from a family that put a high value on service, Keara Leahy was excited to learn about the Alternative Breaks program a couple years back when she was seeking service opportunities on campus. Now a senior accounting major, she is about to embark on her second Alternative Break this March as a site leader. Her group is traveling to San Diego to work with several organizations to support veterans, active military and their families.
"I wanted to do this trip because I felt there were parts, such as mental health stigma, that would overlap with each other," said Leahy who has done some past research on homeless in the veteran community. "However, I also know that there is a lot that I don't about military life and culture that made walls with civilians. I want to learn more so I can do my part in serving and assisting those who have done so much for us."
One of the challenges Leahy noticed her first year leading a team on an alternative break was that the cost of the trips was one of biggest factors stopping students from participating. This year, for the first time, the Volunteer Resource Center (the Alternative Breaks program is hosted in the center) has partnered with the campus Crowfunding program to help alleviate some of the cost. Leahy and her group have nearly met their fundraising goal $1,000, with help from the crowdfunding effort.
"What I like even more about the crowdfunding is how it lets our friends, family and the community know what we are doing," Leahy said.
Muhammad Khan, an MBA candidate in the Leeds School of Business, is leading a trip to Baton Rouge, LA, to help rebuild homes that were heavily damaged or destroyed by floods in 2016. He began participating in the Volunteer Resouce Center when he came to CU to help connect with the community.
"When I started school I didn't feel involved in the community so I started working with the Volunteer Resource Center and giving back to the community," Khan said. "It has been a great experience since then."
Khan also said the crowdfunding piece is helpful, not only for offsetting the trip costs, but it is also an opportunity to gain a new skill set.
"I think it is a good way to lower our costs while raising awareness about our trip topic," he said. "But it is also a great way to reach out to people and polish your interpersonal and communication skills."
This spring participants will be traveling throughout the country the last week of March during spring break.
Who Participates in an Alternative Break Trip?
All full-time, undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to participate in any part of the Alternative Break experience.
Participants: Diversity is a core foundation of the program and already has a wide range of student participants from first year students to graduate students, students who have volunteered for the first time and students who dedicate lots of time to service, Colorado natives to international students and so much more. There’s a spot for you if you have an interest or passion for service and social justice.
Site Leaders: Being a site leader for Alternative Breaks is one of the premier leadership experiences on campus. It’s a unique opportunity to gain course credit for participation in the year-long leadership training OR you can be a leader as a volunteer. Either way, you’re going to gain crucial leadership skills and real-life experience on your Alternative Break trip to lead, manage, develop, support and teach a group of students.
Skills you’ll gain:
- Managing groups (conflict resolution, teambuilding)
- Building and managing budgets
- Outreaching to community organizations and building new relationships
- Event planning and management
- Develop reflection and facilitation skills
- Create and experience for other fellow CU Buffs that you all will remember for a lifetime