For many Marian University students, spring break will be more than a week off school. These students have decided to participate in Alternative Spring Break, a program that gives students the chance to serve local, national, and even international communities. This year, 36 students, faculty, and staff will travel to New Mexico, Chicago, and Nicaragua to participate in community service. Over the week, participants will engage in more than 1,500 hours of service.
Alternative Spring Break is a unique full immersion experience. Undergraduate students from across all disciplines get the chance to participate in social justice activities first hand in a new environment. During the week, students participate in a wide-range of service opportunities and learn to appreciate a new culture. They are also given opportunities to reflect on their impact and the people they are serving.
Prior to the trip, the participants spend over 400 hours total in pre-trip team formation and service.
“Alternative Spring Break serves as a vehicle for Marian University to implement its mission to educate students who will transform the world, by preparing students to understand other cultures and to be engaged with those who do not have access to essential resources,” said Jeanne Grammens Hidalgo, campus ministry advisor for the trips. “It is our hope that through the experience, students will be exposed to situations that will disturb them into social action, reflecting our gospel call to be advocates for people suffering in poverty and injustice. Students have described their participation in Alternative Spring Break as life-changing. Many of the students who participate in the program go on to serve as leaders for trips in the future. ”
Junior Rachel Garzon is one of the student leaders for the group traveling to Nicaragua. Although this is the first time Marian University has sent an alternative spring break group to Nicaragua, Garzon has done service there before.
“There is a joy of the people in Nicaragua that is indescribable. Many do not even have clean, accessible water to drink, yet they have a joy that's contagious. I have no doubt that the people of Nicaragua will touch the hearts of those going on the trip,” Garzon says.
This year the Archdiocese of Indianapolis awarded Marian University’s campus ministry with a grant that supports the international alternative break trip to Nicaragua, thus lowering the expense for students.