Upcoming alternative breaks encourage student advocacy for social justice issues

A new crop of student-led volunteer opportunities will be offered during the 2023 school year.

During each break at Baldwin Wallace, student-led service groups travel and contribute volunteer work and advocacy for various social justice issues in communities experiencing adversity.  

On each trip, called “alternative breaks,” students can expect to experience service work, travel, connection-building and the development of new skills. The David and Frances Brain Center for Community Engagement upholds this tradition each school year.  

“A.B. trips are a truly life-changing experience where students learn how to grow through being comfortable in the uncomfortable,” said Cory Dulemba, a senior national security and criminal justice double major who will be co-leading a trip this semester.  

Sarah Pounder, a sophomore double major in psychology and sociology, led the “Strengthening a Community: An Act of Women’s Empowerment” trip over the first week of the 2022 winter break.   

The trip was built around the idea of wanting to give back to women’s shelters and a community that strives to build up women after getting hit with the overturning of Roe v. Wade last June.  

“I believe that it is a social justice issue we can learn a lot from and bring new knowledge back to Baldwin Wallace because our campus does not do much for women’s empowerment,” Pounder told The Exponent prior to the trip. “I hope my participants build connections with each other and develop a greater understanding of strengthening a community and themselves.”  

Pounder will also lead the 2023 spring break trip “Learning from the Past, For a Better Future.” This trip will explore the efforts of past civil rights activists as well as inspire the new generation to continue to fight for their rights and make an impact.  

To ensure that students sign up for the service itself rather than a destination, the locations of each trip are kept under wraps until students are accepted and attend a pre-trip meeting.  

Junior public health majors Manav Patel and Mehraeel Saleh co-lead the “Youth & Trauma” trip during winter break. This trip contained an insightful experience into the policies that directly affect youth and the social services that aim to help them.   

Patel and Saleh’s second trip this school year, scheduled for this summer, features a hands-on experience in public health. The plan for this trip is to connect with public health professionals and foster community health through service in aiding vulnerable populations.  

Senior exercise science major Jill Wood, the student director of alternative break trips, works consistently with each trip to ensure it is planned out ahead of time and can produce meaningful work and service to different communities.   

“A.B. trips are a time for students to gather and do hands-on experience in a community. It is a time for reflection, growth, and of course, service,” Wood said. “I believe all students and faculty should experience an A.B. trip as it truly is life-changing.”  

The A.B. experience continues after the academic year ends, with many trips scheduled for the beginning of the 2023 summer break following final exams.   

Sole Hall-Hamilton, a senior education and English double major, will lead the “Equitable Queer Communities in America: Creating Change to Enhance their Future” trip during the summer. This specific trip is a service opportunity that caters to the LGBTQ community. Throughout this experience, students will learn more about the policies and policy recommendations directly impacting LGBTQ individuals across the country.   

Manimone Sengvoravong, a junior neuroscience major, and Dulemba will be co-leading the “Vicious Cycle of Urban Poverty” summer trip.   

“This trip is focused on learning about the attributes to urban poverty, packed with education on how our community can come together to help each other,” Sengvoravong said. “This trip is packed full of experiences that can be brought back to Berea – experiences that can change the world.” 

The trip Sengvoravong and Dulemba have created will dive into the experiences of individuals who have experienced poverty firsthand and allow the participants to reflect on these hardships and extend service.   

Wood said that organizing alternative break trips has provided valuable learning opportunities.  

“I love helping the leaders’ ideas come to life, and I love helping them find the next generation of leaders and helping them create an amazing experience,” Wood said. “I have gained skills that will help me in the future, but I also feel my leaders have gained the same, if not more than me, from the experience.”