University students and staff took off during spring break, but they didn’t take time off. Through the Alternative Spring Break program, sponsored by the Experiential Learning Center, Office of Student Life and Office of Diversity & Inclusion, two groups headed to New Mexico: One team went to Albuquerque and the other to Santa Fe.
In Albuquerque, 14 students and three staff spent the week working with residents and staff at Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest homeless shelter. Students also went into the community with the Life Line program to deliver meals and hygiene items to the homeless outside of the rehabilitation program and shelter.
“These excursions provide a full immersion service-learning experience for students,” says Kyra Tarbell, community engagement coordinator in the Experiential Learning Center. “The trip to Albuquerque allows students an opportunity to see a unique part of the country, connect with other CU Denver students, interact with a different population of people and deal directly with social issues affecting the country.”
Senior Jordan Robinson notes, “I have a great time on every Alternative Break trip. I enjoy pushing my comfort level and find it rewarding giving back to my community.”
In Santa Fe, 14 students and two staff from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion addressed Northern New Mexico food justice and sustainability issues.
“I feel we made a positive impact on the kids especially those at Salazar elementary. My partner Julia and I got the chance to talk to some kids and share our experiences of growing up with them,” notes Fu Wang student participant. “By the end of the day, one of the kids at the school ask for us to come back soon before they leave for seventh grade. I enjoy giving as much as I receive on this trip. If I get the chance to do it again, I will definitely sign up in a heart beat.”
“This trip took a holistic approach in tackling food insecurity and creating a sustainable food system in New Mexico,” explains Kate Nehring, leadership coordinator in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. “Students helped local communities in the movement for sustainable and just communities through various service projects. Additionally, students gained knowledge regarding food production, food justice and the importance of local products.”
In its third year, Alternative Spring Break trips are affordable for students and provide an alternative experience, Tarbell says. It is the second year a team has assisted at Joy Junction; the food justice excursion was in its first year.
The takeaways from the trips were boundless. "I have a clearer picture of what goes into the production of our food because of the service projects we did as well as the social justice and sustainability issues that surround our current food system,” Nehring notes. “Being more informed will help me make better choices regarding food and I hope to take this knowledge back to my own community."
Adds Tarbell, “Students not only learn and experience social issues, but they also develop communication and team building skills, explore personal values and engage in discussion and friendships with their peers.”
"This is by far one of THE best experiences I have ever had," Nehring says.