Alternative Breaks looks to retool

Without a spring break, the service experience seeks alternative options

written By: sean Walulik, staff writer


Photo courtesy of @xu_ab on Instagram
The Alternative Breaks board poses for a photo while on their retreat.

With the announcement of Xavier’s spring academic calendar last week, including the cancellation of spring break, Alternative Breaks (AB), one of the largest student groups on campus, was left to adjust their plans for the continuation of the program. 

AB is now shortening the programs typically carried out over the course of Xavier’s week-long spring break, to single-weekend experiences. 

With travel being a significant challenge during the pandemic, AB has shifted its focus to staying local. 

The program will offer experiences in both the fall and the spring, with the majority occurring in the spring. 

AB seeks to put a face to social justice issues occurring within our local community and beyond. This year, AB will be hosting two experiences in the fall and nine experiences in the spring, one of which will be done virtually. 

In order to accommodate the challenges that the pandemic brings, the AB board is working vigorously to ensure that students have experiences as fulfilling as those before COVID-19. 

In the past, AB experiences have addressed many social issues, including poverty, environmental crises, immigration and others. 

This year, the goal of AB remains the same, attempting to address the realities of these topics within the local community while continually encouraging reflection upon these topics. 

Though it is unsafe to travel far distances this year, the AB board is still working to develop plans to meet virtually with community partners so as to maintain the global scope of the program. 

“The virtual experience will be an afternoon experience, and that will be our Realities of Post-Work Communities, which is an organization that has been around since the beginning of AB,” Kelly DeLano, the president of AB, explained. “We’re trying to maintain the relationships that we’ve built before, even though we won’t be able to visit them.”

Beyond this experience, many will take place locally, with only a few going beyond a 35-mile radius from campus. This has prompted the consideration of extra precautions to ensure that students can safely travel to and from their experience locations. 

To achieve proper social distancing during the experiences, the AB board has developed plans to decrease the number of students going on each experience to eight individuals, rather than the typical 10 to 13. 

Despite these challenges, AB still feels confident that they are going to be able to provide students applying to the program with a satisfactory experience. 

The experiences will still be designed around the tenets of education, service and reflection so as to encourage participants to make the transition from being members of their community to being not only be conscientious citizens but also active ones. 

“The goal of AB is to use education, reflection and service to help people better understand a social justice issue,” DeLano said. “It is the combination of all three of those that allow that to happen.”

The experiences will have educational precursors, some of which will be done virtually before the in-person experience. Following the service component of the experience, students will be encouraged to reflect on those experiences and integrate the lessons into their moral compasses, to promote further community engagement. 

“With any service experience, the time and energy that you devote will be what you get out of it,”  Olivia Martini, AB experience leader, explained. “Learning and serving will still be at the forefront of our trips, and we’ll make the most of whatever time we get to spend on our experience.”

DeLano reiterated this sentiment by emphasizing, “AB is about learning how you can engage with your community and working to become an active citizen.”