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CMU's Alternative Break program ranks among nation's best

Volunteer program enables students to learn about social justice issues

Contact: CMU News

Central Michigan University ranks fourth in the nation for the number of Alternative Break trips taken and seventh in the nation for the number of participants, according to Break Away’s 2013-2014 National Chapter Survey.  

Break Away is a national nonprofit organization that supports the development of university alternative break programs.

Erica Johnson, assistant director of CMU's Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center, said 536 students participated in 50 trips in the 2013-2014 period. Students volunteered for sites based on social justice issues including animal endangerment, HIV/AIDS, education, suicide prevention and affordable housing.

“The Alternative Break program plays an important role in preparing CMU students to be active citizens in their communities, whether that is locally, nationally or globally,” Johnson said. “We hope students take the skills they have learned in this program – such as teamwork, effective communication and the ability to understand a situation from another’s perspective – to make a difference in their current and future communities.”

Last week, 82 CMU students spent the first week of their summer break volunteering at sites across eight states through the Alternative Break program.

Waterford senior Jenn Tabeek was a site leader in Biloxi, Mississippi, at Hope Community Development Agency – a nonprofit that has reconstructed more than 800 homes since Hurricane Katrina. This was Tabeek’s 12th Alternative Break. With eight other students, she helped with community development, including the construction of a homeless shelter.

“We were immersed in the community of Biloxi and learned so much about hunger, homelessness, disaster relief, poverty and youth development,” Tabeek said. “Working on the construction of a shelter has really opened our eyes to the homeless population.”

This was Livonia graduate student Alyssa Newman’s first Alternative Break experience.

“It is one thing to hear about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it has caused, but to see it firsthand has been a humbling experience,” Newman said. “The people of Biloxi continue to struggle almost 10 years later. The community and Hope CDA have come together to bring about change and give so many people hope and a reason to live.”

An additional 12 CMU students will participate in an Alternative Break in August in Palm Beach, Florida, to help rescue sea turtle hatchlings.

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