Beginning this year, the University and the Office of Community Engagement will offer two alternative spring break (ASB) options for students. Students that are are unable to return home or who are simply interested in the programs will be able to participate in a community service trip through Habitat for Humanity or to engage in local community service in the Middletown community. The ASB program will be sponsored by the University and will seek to encourage community engagement.
The main organizer of the program, Bruno Machiavelo Tinoco ’16, explained that when he recognized that the University did not have any ASB programs, he was determined to help create one. Machiavelo Tinoco, who serves on the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Student Affairs Committee, published a committee update on the WSA website on Oct. 14 explaining the program.
“Unfortunately, Wesleyan does not have any institutionalized, recurring, and consistent ASB program,” Machiavelo Tinoco wrote. “So, I did what any WSA member would do: I set out to change this. After many meetings with relevant administrators and students, Wesleyan’s ASB program was born.”
Machiavelo Tinoco added that these options will be especially beneficial for international students, for whom it is particularly difficult to leave campus.
“As a previously international student, I had a lot of trouble finding things to do during school breaks while others were off gallivanting around the United States and/or visiting home,” Machiavelo Tinoco wrote. “This was especially true during spring break, especially due to the fact that we have two whole weeks off. Through talking with a lot of my international friends that now attend American universities, I learned that a lot of them were participating in their school’s ‘Alternative Spring Break’ program.”
A survey provided by the WSA indicated that many students at the University, both international and domestic, expressed interest in having these sorts of alternative spring break options. For student groups whose mission would benefit from a trip that would be difficult to schedule while school is in session, spring break also provides an excellent opportunity.
Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley expressed his excitement about the program.
“I am fully supportive of offering some service options to students interested in spending a portion of the recess working on community service projects,” Whaley wrote in an email to The Argus.
Coordinator for the on-campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity Alex Drexler ’16 said that he has been planning to organize a trip for Habitat for Humanity since his freshman year. According to Drexler, the details for this trip are still being finalized, but the trip’s itinerary will entail working on building a specific house from Monday to Thursday and then having time off on Friday and Saturday to explore the area.
“It is very open,” he said. “It is going to depend on who ends up wanting to go, how many people we have, and how far we are willing to travel.”
As for the domestic alternative spring break program, students are organizing a one-week program through the Hunger and Homelessness student group. Group leader Francesca Moree ’14 explained that students who choose to attend this will remain on campus throughout spring break.
“Time is long overdue for Wesleyan students to engage in an alternative spring break,” Moree wrote in a message to The Argus.
Students who choose this trip will either work on various projects in Middletown or select one larger project to complete throughout the week.
Machiavelo Tinoco is hopeful that ASB will prove as popular as the WSA survey suggested it might be.
“Personally, I think that students will [take advantage of the program], especially international students,” Machiavelo Tinoco said. “I probably would have gone on an alternative spring break trip if it had been available.”
In the future, ASB may not be limited to the two options available this year: Drexler hopes this program will grow over the years, possibly offering a larger array of alternative trips to students.
“As far as Alternative Spring Break trips go as a whole, I am really excited about getting more of them put together,” Drexler said.
Machiavelo Tinoco added that this trip provides a unique opportunity for many students at the University to get involved with the Middletown community as well as communities elsewhere.
“Hopefully we get a good turnout and the trip is successful, fun, and very beneficial for the community,” Machiavelo Tinoco said.