Category: Alternative Break

An Alternative Call to Action| By Lacey Key

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At first this looks like a pensive photo of me planting blackberries with my eyebrow MIA (which in fact it is), but it is also a call to action.  Alternative Break has been the most life changing and growth inspiring opportunity I have had while in college. I’ve learned more than I have in my toughest and most interesting classes. I have learned so much on these trips through travel, community, early morning farmers markets, museum visits, service, and meeting people who have so much to gain from sustainable change.  Most importantly, I’ve learned what it is to put a passion for change into action.

There are things that are very unsettling about the state of this world. As people of privilege on so many levels, furthering our education and creating a foundation for the rest of our lives, I encourage and call upon you to spend one of your academic breaks this year on an Alternative Break.  It will make you frustrated but motivated, taken aback by the devastating and beautiful truths this world has to uncover. 

The college will tell you what classes to take and the necessary steps to earn a degree. What it won’t tell you is that in order to come out of these four years a person who is truly aware of the world, a citizen of this earth, you have to do something a little extra. You have to push your comfort zones, try new things, expand your circle of compassion, get your hands dirty, find a way to sustain not only your own life- but the life that exists all around you.

Alternative Break is my happiness. We all have the chance to do something like this as young people with energy, time, and heart. So, this Fall break, trade your old lenses of the world out for new ones. Laugh at yourself, break down, rebuild yourself again and again. Get smart, get engaged, get active.

Applications are available here, and due Monday September 26th.



New Year, New Service!

As we are finally getting back in the groove of the New Year (and SUPER fun 8 AMs), the Center for Civic Engagement is getting its groove on too!  For those of you new to the office, our mission is to focus on community development both inside and outside the College of Charleston community.  We do this by emphasizing education, direct service, and critical reflection.

This year we will be casting a lot of light on our recurring service events with different community partners.  These partners include Neighborhood House, Keep Charleston Beautiful, and Lowcountry Food Bank.  The service with Neighborhood House, One80 Place and Lowcountry Food Bank will be focusing on the issues people face when experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, while Keep Charleston Beautiful will be focusing on litter, environmental and other social issues around Charleston.

The Alternative Break program has a fresh round of Spring Break trips to Washburn, TN, Charlotte, NC and Louisville, KY.  The trip to Washburn will be focusing on Environmental Justice through engaging in organic gardening, conservation projects and eco-construction projects while also having the opportunity to practice daily yoga, evening hikes and vegetarian meals prepared by a local chef. Those in Charlotte will be learning about sustainable and affordable housing, working with Habitat for Humanity on home construction and education of the current housing crisis. Participants in the Louisville trip will be educated on refugee resettlement, partnering with Kentucky Refugee Ministries to organize warehouse donation and serve a direct impact by preparing welcome kits of household items for incoming refugees. In addition, there are exciting Maymester opportunities to Greece and Puerto Rico, focusing on Sustainable Tourism and Permaculture with Environmental Justice, respectively.

The Bonner Leader program is very excited to announce the return of their Engage and Empower’s “Get Up and Go Get It” week this spring.  Engage and Empower is an opportunity for students to get more involved with organizations both on and off campus and gives Bonner leaders an opportunity to facilitate group presentations.

If you are interested in any of the above items, feel free to stop by our office in 203 Lightsey.  It’s going to be a great year, let’s spend it becoming engaged, active citizens!


Getting Alternative Over Fall Break

Contributions made by Kat Carmichael, Elizabeth Mandell, and Aly Skiko

Over this past fall break, two groups of students decided to get alternative.   They wanted to do something different from going home for the weekend.  One group strived to learn about the root causes of homelessness and food insecurity in Asheville, North Carolina and one group focused on food insecurity amongst migrant workers on Saint Helena Island located in the Beaufort, SC community.

The group in Asheville worked with several organizations that fought homelessness and food insecurity in the area.  These organizations include the Asheville Poverty Initiative, the Steadfast House, the Veterans Restoration Quarters, and the MANNA Food Bank.

The Asheville Poverty Initiative took the group on a tour of Asheville through the eyes of someone experiencing homelessness.  They were accompanied by “poverty scholars” (people in poverty that get paid by the organization to give these tours) who shared their stories of living on the streets, and how some local shelters are not all good.  This experience provided the participants with a new perspective on homelessness and how the system does not work.

The Steadfast House is a transitional housing facility for women and children experiencing homelessness.  Many of the women are victims of domestic violence.  Steadfast House also works very closely with the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville.  The group learned that in the state of North Carolina boys over the age of 12 are considered too old to reside in Steadfast House, which leads to families needing to be split up.

The Veterans Restoration Quarters provides housing for veterans who experience homelessness when they return from war.  One quote that really stuck with the group was how “they trained us for 6 years for war, but only gave us 2 days to readjust.”  Veterans are often not given the help they need once they return back to the states, and this often leads to homelessness.  The Veterans Restoration Quarters is an all-male facility that accepts only those over 18 years old.  In partnership with the Steadfast House, they are working towards building Transformation Village, an organization that would provide housing to any family (including in-tact families and single dads).

The MANNA Food Bank is the largest food bank in Western North Carolina, where 1 in 4 children are food insecure.  They provide school kids with “weekend packs” which contain easy to prepare meals for the weekends.  Schools often provide students who are food insecure with breakfasts and lunches, but on the weekends the kids go hungry.  These weekend packs have meals that the children can prepare themselves.

The Beaufort group focused mainly on educating themselves about the issues that migrant communities face by meeting with different groups connected with the farmworker community during their trip. They first partnered up with Water’s Edge Youth group and went bowling with a group of 12 children who live at the farmworker camps along with other children from Water’s Edge youth congregation.

The next day the group met with Joe Taylor, a local high school teacher who generously teaches youth, evening English classes during his summers off. He works with funds from the migrant education program. Beyond his duties as an ESOL teacher, he and his family are instrumental in connecting the workers to the other resources in the community. He and his daughter Rachel Taylor took the group on a tour of the camps and gave the students an insight into some of the challenges the farmworker families face living in isolated camps. Rachel has worked for the Migrant Education Program alongside her dad, and has also been an intern for SAF, or Student Action with Farmworkers.

The Beaufort group was also fortunate enough to hear from the Migrant Education Program State Recruiter, Zach Taylor. He explained what his position was and what his duties were. He told the group how he aims to find the camps that house farmworkers and their families in the lower part of South Carolina in order to start migrant education programs in the school districts.

Another community member the group met with was a former translator from the Saint Helena Health Clinic. This clinic aims to provide services to the farmworker communities such as OB visits for women who are pregnant, dental services, and even eye exams.

The Beaufort group was able to partner with Water’s Edge church in order to plan fun activities to take the kids to go bowling and to the movies. One day the group went to the camps and brought games and coloring books to play with the children. The Beaufort group also met with the parents of 2 of the children they played with and heard each of their stories. On a separate occasion, the Beaufort group hosted two younger farmworkers at dinner and also heard their experiences as farmworkers.

During their cultural day the group enjoyed Gullah cuisine, the historic Penn Center, downtown Beaufort and Hunting Island State Park. The Penn Center is located on Saint Helena and was the first school for freed slaves in history. During the cultural day, the Beaufort group was able to see Beaufort’s diverse community and fully understand how isolated the migrant community is within Beaufort.

Both groups had incredibly enriching experiences and were able to immerse themselves into the pressing issues that the Asheville and Beaufort communities are facing. These groups will continue to educate themselves and be allies to these communities so the issues they face can eventually be eradicated.

If you are interested in participating in an Alternative Break experience, the applications for Spring Maymester, and MLK weekend breaks are available now!  They are due Monday, Nov. 16th to the Center for Civic Engagement by 5pm.  Feel free to stop by the office to pick one up, or print out a copy from the Alternative Break page!

12108719_10207758374179628_765517823353704659_nParticipants on the Asheville Alternative Fall Break

Alternative Break Leader Applications

Alt Break - general

Interested in being a site leader for an alternative break trip?

If you have previous experience as an Alternative Break participant and you are inspired to take on a new role in the Alternative Break movement, we encourage you to consider applying for our Alternative Break Leadership Board or site leader team for the 2014-15 academic year.

Site Leader Application 2014-15

Alternative Fall Break 2014 Timeline

Weekend Breaks 2015 Timeline

Alternative Spring Break 2015 Timeline

Join the Alternative Break Leadership Board. 

Leadership board members will be primarily responsible for supporting and guiding the Alternative Break program through training, outreach, and coordination of club logistics. 2014-15 will be a year of transition with Leadership Board members laying the ground work for future boards to assume more responsibility in the implementation of the Alternative Break program.

Leadership Board Application 2014-2015

Interested in learning more about the responsibilities of a Site Leader or Leadership Board?
Attend our information sessions: 

Friday, March 14th at 12PM │ Lightsey 203

Wednesday, March 19th at 5pm │ Lightsey 203

Alternative Spring Break & MLK Service Weekend

Alt Break - general

This year’s service immersion experiences will explore issues related to education and English literacy, healthcare access, urban agriculture, organic farming, and activism/community development. Stay tuned for more information regarding information sessions to be held in October!

Spring Break 2014

March 1st – 8th

MLK Service Weekend

January 17th – 20th

Applications will be available for spring break and our MLK service weekend experiences online by Monday, September 30th