A program that plugs Kansas University students into volunteer work opportunities during times when school isn’t in session is expanding.
Stephanie Jian is a senior from Lawrence who will serve as co-director of the program for the next school year.
She said the program has sent students all over the country, including Zion National Park in Utah, the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind and the Houston AIDS Foundation.
Alternative Breaks features weeklong trips during the spring, winter and summer breaks, and shorter weekend projects in Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City throughout the year.
Last year, the group sponsored about six weekend breaks a semester. This year, they hope to have at least one every weekend of the school year, Jian said. They’re adding more weeklong breaks, too, to accommodate demand.
“It’s a huge expansion for us,” she said.
Alek Joyce, a sophomore from Lawrence, attended the trip to Zion National Park over spring break last semester. His group did volunteer work that supported nature preservation.
It was very rewarding, he said, and a change from the flat plains of Kansas.
“When you get out in Zion National Park, it’s pretty much a network of huge valleys,” he said.
He collected cacti, removed invasive weeds and managed to forget all about that Student Senate election back home.
The alternative breaks group will soon begin a campaign to raise $30,000 for a scholarship fund, Jian said. The endowed fund would provide scholarships for students to attend alternative break programs.
The weeklong breaks typically cost $275, Jian said. That pays for travel, food and lodging for the week.
“But if a college student doesn’t have $275, they don’t have $275,” she said of the reason for the scholarships.
Applications and a complete list of programs are available online at http://groups.ku.edu/~albreaks.
Sam Long, a Topeka senior, traveled to Cincinnati this summer to volunteer at a center for children with Down syndrome.
“It was an awesome experience,” he said.
When he was growing up, he said he often encountered other children with mental disabilities, but never engaged with them very much.
“When you really get to know them, it sounds cliched, but you see they’re not that different from everyone else,” he said.
After returning from Cincinnati, members of his group have been volunteering on their own at a similar center in Kansas City, he said.
Joyce said he was glad to see the program expanding.
“It really is a great program,” Joyce said. “I’d like to see every student participate in it.”
This story has been updated to correct an error. The KU Honors Program will not be instituting a service requirement for its freshmen.