The Alternative Breaks Team, hosted by the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL), has provided Weber State University students with the opportunity to volunteer in trips around the country and the world for over 12 years.

A view of Ogden, Utah, from the Waterfall Canyon Trail (Robert Lewis / The Signpost)
A view of Ogden, Utah from the Waterfall Canyon Trail (Robert Lewis / The Signpost) Photo credit: Signpost Archives

During spring break last year, students traveled to Dover, NC; New Orleans; Las Canas, Dominican Republic; Fiji and Washington, D.C. This year, spring break will be different due to COVID-19.

Instead of traveling abroad this year, students will be able to volunteer locally in Ogden and Salt Lake City on March 11 and 12. There will be two groups: one group in Ogden one day, the other in Salt Lake. The groups will then rotate for the next day. The trips will be led by Gentry Mathias and Giovanni Frias.

“Originally, we planned for a trip to McNary, AZ and a trip to southern Utah,” Jenny Frame, adviser of the Alternative Breaks Team, said. “We knew that there would be a good chance we wouldn’t be able to go on the further away trips, so we made a plan A, a plan B and a plan C.”

Frame said the local trips will follow Weber State and CDC guidelines.

The trip will only cost $50, which will cover the service fees, breakfast and lunch. March 4 will be the last day to sign up, and March 5 will be the last day to pay the $50 fee.

“What students will be getting out of this is a lot more than what they are paying for,” Zadoth Vazquez, student director of the Alternative Breaks Team, said. “They are truly getting a transformative experience. Being community-engaged is transformative. We wanted this trip to be as open to people as possible.”

The trip to Salt Lake City will focus on the social issue of food insecurity. Students will work with Neighborhood House and Youth Resource Center to serve meals and learn how food is packed up and sent out to those in need.

Meanwhile, the trip to Ogden will focus on environmental sustainability. The group will work with the Pliking Club of Ogden. The Pliking Club focuses on picking up trash while hiking, walking and biking along Ogden trails.

Vazquez said the team is also hoping to work with the Ogden Nature Center to focus on rehabilitating wildlife and environmental sustainability.

Virtual keynote speakers will also be a part of the Ogden trip. A speaker from the 7 Elements organization will speak about human security issues and what they do as an organization. Another organization based in Arizona, called Highlander, will speak about Indigenous groups, social systems, sustainability purposes and cultural context.

The keynote speakers will make their presentations relevant to the students and how the topics can apply to the world today.

Vazquez said they have a backup virtual plan in place, in case of a surge of COVID-19 cases or exposure to the virus.

The virtual plan will include StoryCorps, Highlander, 7 Elements and the Pliking Club in a more extensive and free way, according to Vazquez.

StoryCorps gives students the opportunity to share their stories and experiences with topics like social injustice, racism and other experiences.

Vazquez said they’ve been reaching out to students through Instagram and Facebook to get students involved in this year’s alternative spring break trips.

“Our capacity for these trips is 20 students, and we’ve had students reach out who have done our trips before and are sticking with us for these local trips,” Vazquez said. “It makes me so happy to know that these trips have made an impact in their life and that they want to participate again.”

To sign up for the alternative spring break visit the Alternative Breaks Team page on Weber’s website.

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