Three of the original nine Alternative Spring Breaks — two for students, one for staff and faculty — have been canceled due to safety risk. The two student trips were going to Catalina Island and San Diego and have been canceled due to unrest near the southern border. The Hawaii staff and faculty trip has also been canceled.
The Alternative Break Program within the Center for Community Engaged Learning is headed by student leaders who each plan a trip over fall or spring break. These trips are specifically humanitarian and involve a dedicated theme of service.
The canceled trip to San Diego was focusing on immigration, and the trip to Catalina Island was environmental-sustainability focused.
The Alternative Spring Breaks for students that are continuing on are Seattle, North Dakota, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
“As a trip leader, I would never want to be responsible for putting any students in danger,” Danielle Collinwood, trip leader for the Catalina Island trip, said. “Although it is disappointing, I would like to think that this cancellation is a step toward making future trips safer.”
Student safety and well-being is of the utmost importance to everyone involved in the Alternative Break Program within CCEL.
“I still very strongly support alternative breaks and the experiences that come through this program, so I hope that this doesn’t make anyone not want to participate in the future,” Collinwood said.
While the trips were being questioned and examined for risk, the student leaders and advisers were kept in the loop. Students who signed up for the trips were told the trips had been paused until further notice.
Becky Jo Gesteland, Interim Executive Director of CCEL, noted that herself, CCEL’s Assistant Director, the Associate Provost for High Impact Programs and many others were involved in the decision regarding the break’s cancellation.
They decided to guarantee student participants were given the option of attending a different alternative break upon the instance of cancellation.
“Students will be refunded any money they have paid thus far,” Gesteland said. “Also, students can provide receipts to the Assistant Director for CCEL in order to be reimbursed for additional trip expenses required for the trip such as hiking boots or other trip-specific gear.”
The Cashier’s Office has been informed of the cancellation, and they will automatically refund any money that participants paid directly to Weber State University.
Meanwhile, CCEL is determined to keep planning alternative breaks for the future.
“CCEL has offered alternative breaks for more than a decade,” Gesteland said. “These service trips provide transformative experiences for those who have participated, and we are committed to offering safe, affordable, high-impact trips such as these going forward.”
Although the cancellation of the trips is a disappointment for everyone involved, CCEL and the trip leaders are taking it as an opportunity to improve the program and better ensure alternative breaks remain a safe and educational experience for WSU students.
“We will continue to make great progress toward putting our students first and providing a high-quality program that allows students to be immersed in social issues and gives them an opportunity to make a difference,” Jake Hutchins, Alternative Breaks Student Director, said.