Community service opportunities broaden student horizons

Marissa Bean
Campus Life Editor

The fall semester just began, but it is never too early to start thinking about winter and spring breaks.

Bridgewater State University (BSU) offers an alternative break program for students to participate in service trips during their time off from school.

According to the program’s page on the Intranet, the “Alternative Break Trip (ABT) program is an opportunity that allows students to spend their break learning about others through volunteerism and reflection, while being immersed in a different environment. As a team, ABT participants make a difference in the lives of others and learn about themselves in the process.”

The trips offered for the upcoming winter break include a community center in Fla., an urban immersion program and a homelessness and hunger program, both located in Washington, D.C.

Junior Amanda Newell is a co-team leader for the Youth Service Opportunity Project trip to Washington, D.C. The program deals with issues of hunger and homelessness. This is her second year involved in the program.

“Last year I got accepted to go on the trip, and it made me really want to give back even more by becoming a team leader,” Newell said.

Newell said that taking part in the trip has given her a new perspective.

“These trips are the most rewarding trips and make you see life from a different point of view,” Newell said. “I believe that I have become a better person and [I am] on my way to becoming an active citizen in my area. Every trip I’ve been on has taught me something new about myself and about the issue of homelessness.”

Newell also thinks about the issue of homelessness differently now.

” I’ve met many incredible people who are so willing and brave enough to tell me their stories,” Newell said. “They show[ed] me that the stereotypes of homelessness need to be broken down. Most people you wouldn’t even know they were dealing with homelessness because someone who is homeless could be anyone. We are all just one paycheck or mistake away from being homeless and we are all humans and should be seen as humans.”

The application for alternative winter break trips closed early last week, but the application for alternative spring break trips is open until Oct. 23.

Three trips are being offered for spring break: Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut in New London, Conn., Junior Achievement of New York in New York City, and Sioux YMCA in Dupree, S.D.

Sophomore Emily Meehan participated in a trip last year that also dealt with homelessness.

“I went to Cincinnati, Ohio for my alternative spring break trip,” Meehan said. “It may sound cliché, but the experience was life-changing. We worked with people experiencing homelessness. All of the people I met on the trip have impacted my life in such a positive way, and made me more thankful for what I have.”

Meehan said she was most impacted by the people on the trip.

“One of the people I talked to on the trip, said that people barely made eye contact with him when he was on the street, and he longed for one person to look at him, and possibly give him a smile,” Meehan said. “That’s all he wanted, just someone to acknowledge him as a person. Seven months after the trip, I still use what I have learned in my daily life.”

It wasn’t just the people from Cincinnati that had an impact on her life.

Meehan said, “I went into the trip not knowing anyone in my group, and I thought this benefitted me greatly and made the experience more fun. Not only did I get to meet people through the service, I also made connections with people at school that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.”

Meehan said, “I highly recommend going on one of these trips, it will change your outlook on life in the best way possible.”

Newell said, “If you have the chance to go on one of these trips, please go because you will never regret the friendships you make, the lessons you learn, the difference you make and how rewarding it will be. Take the chance and make a difference.”

Marissa Bean is the Campus Life Editor for The Comment. Follow her on Twitter @MarLaur16.

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