Alternative Spring Breakers ‘break’ spring break standards
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 10:03
Alternative Spring Break trips give Indiana University of Pennsylvania students a chance to spend their vacations doing volunteer work and having new experiences. The program was started in 2001 by Dr. Caleb Finegan, an IUP history professor.
The first Alternative Spring Break trip was 17 people, in 2002. The program then increased in popularity to around 140 involved students.
After that, participation was scaled back, to about 50 students a year.
Destinations for the trips have included Galveston, Texas, and New Orleans, La.
Recruitment for each year’s trip starts in September. This year, three trips will be offered—one to North Carolina, one to Vermont, and one to Tennessee. In the past, IUP has partnered with other organizations, like Habitat for Humanity, to set up the trips.
As part of Alternative Spring Break, Nick Marsellas (sophomore, English) and Jerod Elias (senior, international studies) spent their last spring breaks at Karme Choling, a Buddhist monastery in Vermont.
Elias started practicing meditation during the trip and now goes to regular meditation sessions.
“I wasn’t really expecting much from it, but it actually really helped me,” Elias said.
“It was a very warm and welcoming experience,” Marsellas said.
A highlight of Elias’s trip was a bonfire they had one night, when two of the other students played guitar and sang. Marsellas enjoyed sitting on a porch during the break with the other students and talking about the experience.
Marsellas is leading this year’s trip to the monastery. Students on his trip will help Karme Choling with maintenance and upkeep, and will aid them in setting up for their children’s camp.
“It’s not a religious experience,” said Marsellas.
Students do not need to be Buddhists to participate. The trip is “experiential,” he said.
This year, Elias is leading the Alternative Spring Break trip to North Carolina. The trip was organized with the help of World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which offers experiences on organic farms lasting from weeks to months.
The nine students on the trip will work at and live on an organic farm for the week, getting free meals and lodging in exchange for their work.
Both Elias and Marsellas suggest that students should get involved in Alternative Spring Break.
“It’s not all work,” Marsellas said, adding that the experience gives students a chance to meet new people and have new experiences.
“Just do it,” said Elias. “You only live once.”
This year’s trip to Tennessee, which focuses on environmental work, still has a few open spots. Interested students should contact Finegan at his email, email@example.com, as soon as possible.