Students tackle social issues during fall break, find personal fulfillment

By Tracy Douglas

Lucas Knapp, senior in engineering, did something over Thanksgiving break besides going home to relax – he joined Alternative Spring Break’s (ASB) fall trips. He said his friend, Jennie Kwon, asked him to come on the trip to be a driver.

Kwon, ASB co-chair and senior in LAS, said ASB is a service organization that works on a variety of social issues.

Her group went to Goshen, Ind., and the other group went to Minneapolis. The Indiana group worked with poverty and housing issues, and the Minnesota group’s project dealt with issues concerning those with HIV/AIDS in the community.

“The fall trips were closer to Illinois, in Indiana and Minnesota,” Kwon said.

She said ASB offers the two fall trips for those who either do not want to or cannot go on the spring trips. She said the trip lasted four days, Saturday to Tuesday, to allow students to get back to their families for Thanksgiving.

Kwon said the group she was with in Indiana worked with the Latino immigrant community in Goshen. She said they worked on building low-income housing.

“We worked mostly on demolishing a house,” Kwon said. “There was a lot of physical labor and a ton of fun.”

Neha Agrawal, senior in business, was a site facilitator for the Minnesota trip. She said they worked with the Aliveness Project in Minneapolis-St. Paul, which helps the HIV/AIDS community.

“They provide meals and gift baskets at Christmas. We worked on preparing the baskets and preparing food for lunch,” Agrawal said. She said it was great to talk to patients and get insight from them.

She said they used the van they drove to Minneapolis in to deliver food for the meals on wheels program.

“It was really cool to meet people and deliver lunches and see the Minneapolis-St. Paul area,” Agrawal said.

Kwon said students apply by essay about a month and a half in advance. She said they hold weekly group meetings in order to get to know each other and about the trip. They send groups of 12 students to different locations during the fall, winter and spring breaks.

Kwon said those who go on the trips have to pay a $150 fee for trip expenses, but scholarships are offered. She said students who go on the trips agree to not drink or use illegal substances on the trips.

“The cost is as minimal as possible,” Kwon said.

She added that the transportation to the trip location is provided.

They stayed in the office of La Casa Goshen, the group they were working with. They goofed around a lot after work by playing hide and seek, Kwon said.

According to Knapp, the group went to the Goshen goodwill store, and one person bought Christmas presents there.

Agrawal said they went to the Mall of America. Agrawal went to Detroit over fall break last year and worked in a soup kitchen.

“Every group has an eclectic range of people,” Agrawal said. “It’s great to meet people outside of your major and group of friends.” She added that being a site facilitator this year was a great leadership experience.

While students enjoyed themselves during the trip, the experience was also personally fulfilling.

“Everyday was rewarding. You could see the results of your work,” Kwon said.