Alternative breaks become K-State tradition


Spring Break Alternatives was started in 1994 and marked the beginning of what would become a very successful program for K-State students looking for a rewarding vacation.

The following article was taken from the March 30, 1995, Collegian and written by Janet Gillilad.

Instead of going skiing or relaxing on the beach for spring break, some K-State students donated their time participating in Spring Break Alternatives.

“It is a week-long immersion into a culture that is totally different than what they are use to,” Clint Leonard, junior in biochemistry and pre-medicine and coordinator of the event, said.

Students who participate in the program go in groups of eight to 10 and travel to a host site in a socio-economic poor area.

“We serve the people at the sites materially, but it is also great for them to see young people coming to help,” he said.

Leonard said this was the second year for the program at K-State. Last year, there were two sites and 16 people. This year, there were four sites that consisted of 34 people.

Megan Curran, sophomore in pre-nursing, went to Chicago with Spring Break Alternatives.

Curran said she worked in a soup kitchen for homeless men and women and at another area that was for families, where she worked with the children.

“I had never experienced working with homeless people before, and I realized that there are a lot of things I do not need and that I take for granted,” she said.

Chris Hansen, sophomore in nuclear engineering, went with another group to a center in Mexico where they visited neighboring villages and delivered toys and clothes.

“By working in the villages in Mexico, I learned to put my own life into perspective, and I learned a lot about myself. I saw how lucky we are living here because we have choices,” Hansen said.

Lisa Pierce, junior in pre-occupational therapy, went to the third site, which was in the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky.

“I helped with home-improvement projects in Kentucky. It was a good feeling I got knowing that I was helping out people, and I gave myself for another human being,” she said.

Leonard said anyone at K-State can participate in this program. People are selected on a first-come, first-served basis.

“All of the spots for this year were filled up one month ago. I can see us adding another site or two next year. The number limit is based upon the number of sites,” he said.

“People can start signing up at the beginning of January. You can sign up at the St. Isidore’s Catholic Center, but you do not have to be Catholic to participate.”

Like other spring break trips, students have to pay their own way.

“The students pay their own way, but we did get an allocation from SGA that helped out. The cost is very small compared to other spring breaks that students go on,” Leonard said.

Housing for the volunteers varies. Some places have beds, while other places just have a floor to sleep on.

Leonard said the Spring Break Alternatives program is not a national organization. It is a campus-to-campus activity.

Students get a chance to experience a different culture than what they are used to.

Leonard said most students have not been to inner-city Chicago, the Appalachian Mountains orvillages in Mexico, but it raises their cultural awareness and makes them more aware of social-justice issues. Along with the people at the sites getting benefits, the student volunteers also benefit from the people there.

“At the site places we visited, the permanent staff volunteers working there are very aware and educated off what is going on, and they educate the students throughout the week,” Leonard said.

“We hope that when the students come back to K-State, those small communities continue to grow and spread, and that the students bring more unity back here to K-State.”