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From the source: Why students choose Alternative Breaks

students in a line with bags of trash on Alternative Break

Illinois State students clean up trash from the Mississippi River in partnership with Living Lands and Waters during Alternative Spring Break.

There are many reasons your college-bound student might be interested in participating in Alternative Break. Maybe they’re naturally inclined to volunteer and help those in need; maybe they want to find how they fit in the campus community; maybe they’re just looking for something to do that’s a little different.

If your student doesn’t fall into one of those groups or isn’t sure about alternative breaks, they’re not alone. Students come from a multitude of backgrounds and experiences, and some dive in without having ever participated in a service-based activity.

“I get those who have volunteered all throughout high school and want to continue that in college. Then we get other ones who just think, ‘This sounds like a cool idea,’ and they join,” said Annie Weaver, coordinator of Student Volunteer Opportunities at Illinois State University. “Sometimes it’s those students who are most impacted—their eyes are truly opened about what it means to do an Alternative Break.”

students pose on steps of school on Alternative Break

Students in Illinois State’s Honors Program pose in front of the Lafayette Academy Charter School in New Orleans, where they helped teach financial leadership to low-income students.

Here are some current Illinois State students on why they got involved with Alternative Break and what the experience has meant to them:

Rebecca Vondriska

A human resource management and organizational leadership double major, Vondriska hadn’t left the state of Illinois in about a decade before deciding to try Alternative Break as a freshman. Since then she has participated in four trips and held multiple Alternative Break leadership roles. She added a minor in international business because of her Alternative Break experiences in different communities, and now is looking to steer her career in a direction that will allow her to embrace other cultures.

“I really didn’t know Alternative Spring Break existed until my academic advisor mentioned it to me,” Vondriska said. “I enjoyed volunteering and didn’t really have anything going on for my spring break, so I signed up.

“I kept doing it because I wanted to continue helping people, making those friendships, and learning from people. I can make an impact on communities that aren’t mine, learn about social issues, become more aware of the world around me, and then also make lifelong friendships.”

Bevin Tovar

Tovar, an organizational leadership major, saw Alternative Break as a way to help others while also sparking personal growth. She was a trip leader for a winter break trip to Ecuador, and is now striving to become a part of the Alternative Break Executive Board in order to invest even more heavily in the program.

“I participate in Alternative Breaks because I love what they stand for,” Tovar said. “The service that we do is incredibly impactful—not only for those who we work for, but for ourselves as well. Bonding with your peers over something as special as service is nothing short of an incredible experience.

“My Alternative Break experience gave me the opportunity to grow as an individual, become a more confident world traveler, shape my leadership skills, and create friendships with some amazing men and women.”

Students holding pineapples and Alternative Breaks banner pose as group

Illinois State students pose while on Alternative Break in Ecuador.

Anna Krecklow

Alternative Break piqued Krecklow’s interest because volunteer work appealed to her. Her first trip came during spring break of 2017, when she traveled to Ashby House in Kansas to help with homelessness and addiction. She has since helped teach financial literacy to low-income children in New Orleans and done volunteer work in a poverty-stricken area of Costa Rica.

An organizational leadership major with a minor in communication studies, Krecklow’s Alternative Break experiences have motivated her to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector helping people in need.

“I wanted to volunteer and help people over spring break, rather than sit at home,” Krecklow said. “I love traveling, so Alternative Spring Break was the perfect opportunity.

“The experiences made me realize my passion for helping people. Alternative Break is an amazing, life-changing experience and I would recommend it to everyone.”

Civic engagement is one of Illinois State’s core values, which is why there are tons of opportunities for Redbirds to get involved, including many right in the community surrounding campus.
Oliv Er Phreykz

For Phreykz, a marketing major with a focus on advanced marketing analytics, Alternative Break was initially about fulfilling academic requirements his freshman year. His first Alternative Spring Break involved restoration of a state park site in Arkansas, and it affected him so much he’s since traveled to New Orleans and Florida with the program, embracing leadership roles along the way.

“I needed to get an Honors credit for the Honors Program here at Illinois State, and Alternative Spring Break seemed like a fun, simple way to get the credit,” Phreykz said. “That freshman trip ended up being such a transformative experience in terms of igniting a passion for service within me.

“My time with Alternative Breaks has caused me to grow tremendously as a leader and as a person. It has definitely been the greatest highlight of my college career. I originally joined simply to get academic credit, and it ended up changing me as a person.”

To find out more about volunteer and service efforts at Illinois State, check out the Center for Civic Engagement and Service Learning.

Related Article: What is Alternative Break? (And what can your college student get out of it?) College students are taking advantage of school breaks to leave their mark on the world, develop skills, and make great friends thanks to Alternative Break.

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