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A break with an alternative twist

This winter break, 20 to 30 Florida Gulf Coast University students will be trading in their vacation time for a pair of work gloves. The biannual Alternative Break trip will be taking place from Dec. 15th-21st in Atlanta.

Alternative Break is a trip planned and coordinated through FGCU Civic Engagement. During winter and spring breaks, a group of students is selected to spend a week in a different city performing acts of community service. Each student participant is required to fill out an application, which is then reviewed by a selection committee of four to six professional staff members and one or two students.

Jazminn Williams, according to the Student Government director of global outreach, a new rubric has been implemented to make this year’s selection process more efficient.

During this week in Atlanta, student participants will spend time working with the Medici Project, a major nonprofit group whose mission is to expose individuals to the realities of poverty in Atlanta’s inner cities and help them make a difference in the lives of those affected.

When asked how the location was selected, Williams said, “I initially looked into places such as New Jersey and Oklahoma, however there wasn’t too much volunteer housing, which is a priority for our group. After speaking with the Medici Project, I knew it would be a life-changing experience.”

As a trip leader, Williams plays the important role of planning the trip and ensuring the participating students depart and return safely back to FGCU on Dec. 21.

There are six site leaders selected to attend the trip who act as small-group and trip leaders to assist Williams in the overall operation of Alternative Break. The site-leader team is comprised of four students and two faculty members.

Jessica Rhea, director of service learning, emphasized that these trips are “truly student planned because there is time set aside each day for group sharing and reflection, students not only grow from the hands-on service-learning experiences which open their eyes to real areas of need in our country, but they have team-building opportunities as well. The students that go on FGCU’s Alternative Breaks together will forever share a special bond.”

Rhea has never been able to attend a trip personally, but hopes to in the future because of all the positive feedback she’s heard from past participants. Some past Alternative Break locations include: Biloxi, Miss., New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

Williams hopes that students attending this trip will take what they have learned and bring it back to the FGCU community.

“I really hope students take advantage of the opportunity to serve outside of their immediate community. I hope they take back the impact a person can make by volunteering.”

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