(Buffalo, N.Y.) – The Alternative Break program allows students from SUNY Buffalo State to engage in hands-on service opportunities.
The program is part of the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, which allows students to go on trips and get involved with direct service that lasts about a week.
Each trip pertains to a certain social issue designed to encourage the participating students to think critically and compassionately.
Aurora Schunk, assistant coordinator of the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, appeared on the Buffalo Review TV Feb. 16 to discuss the program.
“The goal of the Alternative Break program is to engage students in service during their academic breaks like spring break and get them volunteering with in a group of 10 or so,” she said. “Reflecting on what they have done and then being able to determine how they want to engage in the community once they come back to campus.”
Schunk has been a part of the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center for five years and during that time the program has grown tremendously.
The program started in 2010 with two trips during the spring semester, but Alternative Break now consists of four to five trips each year. The program also includes a student leadership team.
The number of students that participate in the program each year has gradually increased, according to Schunk.
She said she believes every time students attend their first orientation, there is a transformation within the six-week time frame.
“It’s that weird, awkward thing with the students on that very first day where nobody really knows each other, they’re kind of feeling each other out,” she said. “In about six weeks, by the end of their trip and right at the end of spring break, I already know that they’re going to be very close-knit students and they’re going to have inside jokes.”
The program will have two spring break trips this semester, including one that will go to Boston where the group will focus on homelessness.
A second group will travel to Virginia and go to the Sky Meadows State Park, where the students will focus on building hiking trails and planting trees to help improve the ecosystem.
Past Alternative Break groups have worked with the homeless in Washington, D.C.; assisted with urban renewal in Detroit, Mich.; and helped with Hurricane Sandy relief in Brooklyn, N.Y.