BW Brain Center Offers Student-Led Alternative Spring Break Program

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the David and Francis Brain Center for Community Engagement was able to offer  alternative break programs to students this spring, through a virtual format.

Typically, there are approximately 20 trips for both fall and spring break. Students would travel to a new area and complete service projects to make an impact in the community, focusing on a specific social issue topic. In order to offer the program this semester, adjustments needed to be made due to travel restrictions and safety concerns.

This spring, there are three alternative break programs being offered. Each program focuses on an individual social issue that is present in society, including sexuality and gender identity, food insecurity and civil rights.

There is a student leader who is in charge of each program that plans, designs and runs the program entirely themselves. Because there is no spring break week this year, each program will run six to eight weeks, meeting once a week on Zoom.

Chris Bradshaw, a senior, is the student leader of the program titled “Love Wins: Sexuality and Gender Identity.” This program will last six weeks, from the beginning of March to the beginning of April.

Bradshaw said, “This experience aims to bring awareness and education to the difficulties that non-heteronormative, non-cisgendered Americans face and how to build an inclusive environment for everyone of any sexual orientation or gender identity [or] expression.”

He partnered with Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization that advocates for inclusivity and representation, to complete service projects throughout the 6 weeks. During the last meeting, a representative from the LGBT Center of Cleveland will join to discuss specific ways for students to get involved and demonstrate what they’ve learned within the Cleveland communities.

Christy Walkuski, the director of the David and Francis Brain Center for Community Engagement, described the changes that were made to the alternative break program due to the pandemic. The past alternative break trips were engaging and interactive for participants. She and the student leaders wanted to bring as many interactive exercises into the virtual program as possible to build bonds between members to replicate the travel experience.

The main focus for the virtual format of the spring alternative break program was to provide participants with connections to the community. “We want to provide students with enough resources and information to be able to create an action plan at the end of the program and choose what they are personally going to commit to do after the experience,” Walkuski said.

Bradshaw said that the program is intended to give students an opportunity to gain knowledge on social issues that impacts society and take that information and implement it into the BW community.

“By engaging in this program, students learn how to become active citizens and understand the importance of using their own privileges to help others and advocate for social justice,” said Bradshaw.