The Comenian Guide to Alternative Spring Breaks

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Spring break is rolling around once again and many students are looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the week-long break. 

Some students will be spending time with their friends and families, while others will embark on traveling adventures. 

For students who are not interested in experiencing the “typical” college spring break, however,  The Center for Career and Civic Engagement offers an alternative program that is targeted towards students who are still interested in travelling but also want to participate in meaningful, hands-on service projects. 

Alternative Spring Break is an opportunity for students to engage in direct service at a location that is not at Moravian. Each trip is targeted towards a specific social issue that is explored throughout the week. This year a total of four trips are being run, including trips to Amarillo, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and a mystery trip. 

The trips this year are coordinated by Gillian Sharkey, the director of civic engagement, and Alternative Spring Break fellow, senior Gabby Sheriff. 

Sharkey and Scherff work together to plan all of the behind-the-scenes logistics, travel arrangements, lodging, budgets, food, and student recruitment, while communicating with the affiliate partners. The team also makes sure that both the students and their parents feel comfortable about where they are going and their itinerary for the week.  

This year, Moravian is sending students to Puerto Rico for the first time. 

Students traveling to the island will be working in San Juan and focusing on areas such as neighborhood revitalization, environmental sustainability, and animal and coastal conservation. Sharkey is thrilled about this year’s trip, and is excited to not only be organizing it but to be serving alongside the students as well. 

Sharkey has been working to bring students to Puerto Rico for two years. However, due to the hurricanes and earthquakes that occurred, she was unable to arrange a trip — until now. “Puerto Rico is my way of fulfilling a promise to the College when the hurricane happened two years ago,” she said. “I am especially passionate about serving the community [there].”

As with the Puerto Rico trip, students who attend the Texas, North Carolina, and mystery trips will be serving alongside a specific community. 

Students going to Texas will be working on the interior of a house which a mother will be moving into. The house is the final one in a neighborhood of 25 homes. The students in North Carolina will be working on three houses that are a part of a Habitat for Humanity community. The houses will be renovated for new families to eventually move into. 

A mystery trip is also being run by Habitat for Humanity this spring. 

The first mystery trip ran in 2017 and was such a success that the trip is continuing to be an alternative break option. After students sign up for it, they receive a packing list along with some general information regarding the trip; the location, however, remains a secret. 

In 2018, the mystery trip was to Monroe, North Carolina, and last year’s trip was to Stuart, Florida. Students either find out their destination while in the van to the airport or on the airplane. “I thought it would be cool to run a trip where students did not know where they were going or what they were doing,” Sharkey explains. “I had heard of it before and was curious to implement it into our program at Moravian.” 

Students are encouraged to participate in some type of service trip throughout their time at Moravian.

Staycation is another option for students who want to participate in service but may not feel comfortable traveling. During Staycation, service projects pertain to a specific social justice issue such as homelessness or to issues related to childhood youth, animal welfare, and food insecurity. 

Students serve around or outside the Lehigh Valley area with a variety of organizations. 

Last year, students volunteered in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. “Staycation is a great way for students to experience service while staying on campus if they have never done it before,” said special education major, junior TahLea Wright. “It opens up more opportunities, and can also prepare you for future traveling trips.” 

Sharkey underscores the value of alternative spring break trips. “It is one of the most important areas of my job,” she said. “I genuinely love it and the impact it can have on students. I feel very privileged to be able to experience service in a way that is so transformational and immersive.”