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Not your average spring break

March 28, 2014

Courtesy of Carina Olaru - Corbin Beastrom stands by the United States/Mexico border wall during a recent Alternative Spring Break trip to Mexico . The group was one of two Alternative Spring Break groups. The other group visited Huntsville, Alabama.

Although the options of how to spend Spring Break are endless, 21 people made up of Monmouth College students, faculty and staff chose to spend their time off from classes in a unique way. They took the week to apply their education, gain new insights and create new friendships by participating in this year’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) programs.

One trip, a traditional Alternative Spring Break, took place in Huntsville, Alabama. Billy Bernard, the assistant director of Greek life, leadership and involvement, led 11 students in a Habitat for Humanity project. The group assisted in rebuilding a tornado-damaged home.

“It was a lot of hard work from tearing up subfloor to building walls for a new house, but it was such a rewarding trip,” said senior Shannon Sullivan. “Never before had I worked with people who were so passionate about their jobs.”

The group was also able to spend time with the future homeowner. “Hearing her story was remarkable. She actually used to be a volunteer for Habitat but has had a rough go at life and is now in need of a home. She is going to be moving into one of the homes that we actually got to work on and the wild thing is it is right down the street from the home she helped to build,” Sullivan said.

For any students considering participating in ASB or looking for something different to do with their break, Sullivan highly recommends the experience. “Not only is it a rewarding experience, but you can go into a trip as strangers and come out like family.”

Hundreds of miles away, a new ASB trip was taking place with BorderLinks exploring immigration issues at the Mexican border. Three professors—Dan Ott, Carina Olaru and Tim Gaster—led the trip with six students.

“The students and professors were able to experience the troubling iron wall that causes so much death and heartache at the border, talk to migrants who had been shuttled back to México while their families remain in the States, and witness the swift court trial that sends migrants back to a place they may not call home. We heard all perspectives,” Olaru said.

The group was also able to interact with historians, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and student and family immigrants. In doing so, the group was able to really apply their liberal arts education.

Sophomore Maria Romero said, “Even though the trip was mainly about immigration, I was able to apply business and environmental concepts to the trip. It’s interesting how many subjects overlap one another.”

This trip allowed for a hands-on experience that could not have been gained in a classroom. “We can read graphs, talk to students about numbers, but going to Tucson allowed us to see the human side of immigration,” Olaru said.

Both trips took a lot of effort, but the people involved were left with a deeper education, new perspectives, and lasting memories.

Emily Orenstein
Contributing Writer

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