Alternative Break Program

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Alternative Spring Break (ASB) 

ASB 2018

Passing up on a beach vacation and on a week of sleeping in at home, 10 awesome and diverse RMU students traveled to Knoxville, Tennessee to do the heavy lifting for a low income, elderly couple in need of help.  RMU once again partnered with Knoxville Leadership Foundation's Operation Backyard to perform home repairs for a family in great need.  The unnamed couple (We are protecting their privacy) has been married for 50 years and living in the same house for the past 40.  With a leaky roof and no ramp for emergency help to reach them if they would be in distress, their beloved home was no longer safe for the aging couple.  The situation recently became more dire as the husband is in the early stage of dementia.  
Fortunately, RMU students were eager to help.  For four full days, the 10 students along with two staff members from Student Life - Lauren Speerhas and Chuck Forrester - rolled up their sleeves and went to work repairing and replacing parts of the roof and building a ramp to the front door of the house to allow for emergency access.  While some students had previous construction experience, most did not.  They learned all of the necessary skills from Operation Backyard's trained volunteers who supervised the work site. 

At the end of each work day, students and staff relaxed by going out to dinner and enjoying the sights and activities of downtown Knoxville.  When asked why they chose to participate in ASB, students spoke of wanting to give back, help others, travel and make new friends.  ASB allowed them to do all of that and more.  And there is an elderly couple in Knoxville who is safe and sound at home thanks to the kindness of RMU students.   

Why ASB?
Do you want to make a big difference in the lives of others over spring break? Interested in visiting another region of the country?  ASB trips take students to domestic locations to explore social justice themes. Trips help students think critically about their role in the global society through service, activism, inquiry and leadership.  Students are challenged to step out of their comfort zone while giving back.

Putting on a roof in Knoxville, Tennessee, in partnership with Knoxville Leadership Foundation's Operation Backyard


RMU’s Alternative Spring Break program encourages students to become active citizens and life-long learners by immersing them in diverse communities throughout the country as they engage in hands-on service and critical reflection regarding the causes of and potential solutions to an array of challenging social justice issues.
  • Immerse participants in a new cultural context
  • Raise awareness about social justice issues, the structures that perpetuate them, and explore potential solutions
  • Engage participants in meaningful volunteer service
  • Connect the social justice issues addressed during the Alternative Spring Break trips with social justice issues facing the Pittsburgh region
  • Encourage personal reflection through the lens of service

The Alternative Spring Break program continues to evolve to reflect the interests of RMU students.  In recent years, groups of students and staff have traveled to:

  • Knoxville, Tennessee, to do home repairs for low income families with Knoxville Leadership Foundation's Operation Backyard
  • Salem, Virginia, near Roanoke to volunteer at a food bank and pantry with Feeding America Southwest Virginia
  • Washington, D.C., to address hunger and homelessness by working in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, transitional housing units, and food pantries in partnership with Youth Service Opportunities Project 
  • Birmingham, Alabama, Concord, North Carolina, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to build affordable housing for the working poor with Habitat for Humanity
  • Atlanta, Georgia, to do flood relief work
  • Appalachian Mountains in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio to do home repairs for elderly and low income rural residents
  • Northern New Jersey to do Hurricane Sandy relief work in partnership with United Way
  • New Orleans, Louisiana, to do relief work in the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina
There are two elements to the program - the volunteer service and reflection; and the immersion into the local community and culture.  It is our intent that students will begin to understand and think critically about social justice issues in context; their causes and potential solutions.

Processing meals in Southwest, Virginia, (2016) in partnership with Feeding America.

Interested in learning more?  Stop by the Engaged Learning and Community Involvement inside the Student Life suite in Nicholson.