Our service-oriented Alternate Break (alt break) and ReNew (disaster relief) trips are completely student-planned, led, and run.  So it was student-leaders Maddie Howland ’16 and Jasmine Gerritsen ’16 who quickly responded when the national government shutdown threw a wrench into their plans. In a display of speed and grace under pressure, they quickly revamped their plans to visit the now-closed Mark Twain National Park in Missouri, replacing the trip with one to Wisconsin.

Natalie Duncombe ’15, an alt break administrator, drew on her experiences leading an earlier trip to help them. She says, “Before the trip I led to Houston, it seemed everything was going wrong, but it all worked out and we had a great experience. This made dealing with all the last minute changes in Madeline and Jasmine's trip easier. Having dealt with a similar situation before removes some the shock and makes it easier to be optimistic about alternative solutions.” 

Our programs are designed to create a community of active citizens, and give students the opportunity to travel, develop new perspectives, enhance leadership skills, and participate in educational and hands-on community service.

The groups are composed entirely of students who live and work together in the communities they serve. They have full responsibility for their decisions and travel without faculty or staff. Trip leaders are responsible for reaching out to organizations, arranging travel and housing, and recruiting participants. A team of past trip leaders administers the program, with advice from Susan Sanning, assistant director of service learning and engagement.

The fall trips are usually regional, taking place in Iowa and surrounding states. This year they address housing and disaster recovery, sustainable urban community agriculture, and organic farming for those with developmental and other disabilities.

Highlights from this break’s trips include:

  • Led by Adrian Rodriguez ’15, Christian Noyce ’15, Minna Montgomery ’16, Taylor Watts’ 16, students are helping community members continue to rebuild homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the wake of massive flooding in 2003. (ReNew)
  • Led by Howland and Gerritsen, students are assisting the residents of a community homestead, learning how members of a community of disabled adults work and live together farming, building custom furniture, and making crafts for sale. (Alt Break)
  • Lead by Ellie Honan ’14 and Chrissy Swartz ’14, students are investigating the ways the for-profit world can have a positive social impact through urban and rural farms, orchards, and gardens. (Alt Break)

ReNew trips are always disaster relief trips. Popular themes for alt break trips include community enhancement, housing, sustainable and community agriculture, hunger relief, education, environmental justice and conservation, immigration, and refuge services.  Other recent alt break trip locations include Georgia, California, Texas, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C.

Contact the ReNew or Alt Break student administrators or Susan Sanning for more information or if you are a student interested in joining or leading a trip.  

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