Alternative Break in Jamaica

March 19, 2014

By James Green

ATTENTION STUDENTS! If you aren’t familiar with Alternative Break offered by the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement, I hope I can persuade you to become acquainted with it! My name is James Green and I am a freshman student at George Mason University. Throughout the beginning of the year I noticed a plethora of pamphlets around campus regarding study abroad trips to many exciting places, but never looked too deeply into them. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but I brushed the idea of traveling abroad off because I feared the expenses.

Alternative Break trips offer the opportunity for international and domestic service at relatively low costs (compared to traditional study abroad trips), less duration of time from home (average of a week), as well as scholarship availability to help offset the costs! I researched more into the programs offered and found that they span from cultural emersion trips in Israel, to sustainability awareness trips in Florida. The trip I found fitting to my service interests was a trip to Jamaica focusing on elementary education.

After arriving in Jamaica, our group of twelve Mason students dove right into our educational mission. When we went to the school for the first time, I immediately took notice to how tarnished the buildings were. The school contained two small structures, totaling four classrooms, and around sixty students –only staffed by two teachers. We decided to find some ways to help around the school other than solely assisting with teaching. JimmyOur group decided that half of us could aid the teachers with their curriculum in the classroom, and the other half could stay outside to repaint the faded pink walls of the school. We also agreed that it’d be nice to switch the jobs of the groups halfway through the day, allowing everyone the opportunity to impact the students in the classroom. I enjoyed both painting and teaching because I knew that we were having a large impact on the school physically as well as with the students. Inside the classroom we read books, played games, and talked about our lives. The kids loved us, and we loved them!

Leaving them on the final day was the most difficult part. In a week’s time I had grown close to many of the students, and I didn’t want to go so soon. They all walked out of the class and into their vans to go home, hugging each of us at the door. It was a sad moment, but a moment that allowed me to feel as if I did truly have a positive impact on their lives –it felt great!

Our last two days were our “fun” days (even though the entire trip was a blast), where we were able to explore the area surrounding Treasure Beach. We went on a boat tour in the serene blue ocean where we were greeted by dolphins, we traveled through Black River –greeted by sunbathing crocodiles, and visited the most amazing set of waterfalls I’ve ever seen! The Jamaican people were kind and accepting, and taught us a lot about their culture! Last but not least, the food was spectacular! Jamaican food seems to be simple, but it tastes like you’re eating food from the finest of restaurants!

These priceless memories and experiences are not available to anyone and everyone, but as a George Mason student, they are accessible to you! I encourage everyone to look into the programs, as you will find life changing experiences in each and every alternative break trip offered! Your life is an adventure, you just have to choose how interesting you want that adventure to be!

Nubia’s Journey in Florida AB Trip

May 19, 2013

Please check out this prezi presentation! It highlights Nubia Del Carpio’s Alternative Break trip to Florida and it is sure to peak your interest!

Leadership Spotlight: Take 2, Sarina Stephenson

May 6, 2013


Just like the above photo shows, Sarina always had my back throughout the trip, as every AB trip leader should.

It was January 2012 during Mason’s winter break. I was taking my first ever flight, first time out of the country, and my first ever Alternative Break trip. However, I was not nervous at all. This was all because of one of my amazing trip leaders, Sarina Stephenson. She was constantly checking on me, providing me with anything I may need, and words of encouragement when I began to feel anxious during the flight and in the country of Jamaica itself. It was wonderful to see how one person could ease your mind so much. She was constantly telling me to step out of my comfort zone and in some instances, I did. Others, not so much. Sarina tells me, “this is how I treat participants on all trips. You want them to be comfortable at all times because if I was a participant, I would want my leaders to do the same.” If anybody wants to know what an ideal leader is for AB, Sarina is that leader. She has led several trips during her undergrad career at GMU and is on the path to success. Sarina does not hesitate to let you know how AB strengthened her leadership in all aspects of her life because she is prepared for whatever situation may come her way and knows how to handle it in a calm and responsible fashionable. She will be graduating next month so we need a new leader to step up and fulfill her shoes. It won’t be an easy task, but who is up for the challenge?!

If you or someone you know is interested in leading a Alternative Break trip for the 2013-2014 school year, apply to do so . You will regret not taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity!
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Leadership Spotlight: Take One, Bethlehem Addis

April 26, 2013

In March of 2013, I participated in an Alternative Break trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This trip was led by Giulia Manno and Bethlehem Addis. The focus of this AB trip was community activism and education. While on this trip, I developed a special place in my heart for our leaders. They made sure all of the participants, including myself felt safe and comfortable throughout the trip. AB trip leader Bethlehem reflecting on previous trips said,  “leading an Alternative Break trip has improved my leadership skills and has enabled me to grow as a individual. The responsibilities of being a trip leader is rewarding in all aspects.” Being a leader on these trips have caused Bethlehem to grow in more ways than one, which is what AB is all about. This trip has caused her to think outside of herself and realize the true impact community service can have on a impoverished area. When it comes to what inspires her the most on these trips, she explained it was being able to watch participants grow and gain knowledge on the service issue we are working with. Facilitating reflections and spending time with participants really makes the trip complete for me!” Bethlehem clearly gave you a peak into a life leading a AB trip. She goes on to say she gets to have fun on these trips and learn as well, you get the best from both worlds. It is a opportunity that should not be taken for granted.
If you or someone you know is interested in leading a Alternative Break trip for the 2013-2014 school year, apply to do so . You will regret not taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity!


Reflections on Guatemala

April 26, 2013

Are you interested in participating in an Alternative Break trip to Guatemala during the school year? Well Alternative Break trip leader Rachel Nohe has created a web page that summarizes her experience on this particular trip. This web page includes her reflections before, after, and during the trip, pictures, purpose of the trip and history of AB’s partnership with Guatemala. You are sure to learn what AB is all about and the impact of the trip on her after reading this so please take the time to check out her page and be inspired!

Life on the AB Exec Board

April 15, 2013

For the 2012-2013 academic year, I served as the recruitment chair for Alternative Breaks here at Mason. In this role, I coordinated events for AB recruitment. This included booking kiosks, planning information sessions, and speaking in classes if necessary. I also worked closely with the marketing chair in the hopes of getting the word out about each AB trip. It was very rewarding to see events that I planned become successful. It reassured me that I was doing what needed to be done in my role. I have gotten a lot out of my AB experience on the executive board and will defintely use the skills I learned on other leadership roles I may take on.

With all of this being said, we are currently seeking Alternative Break executive board positions for the 2013-2014 academic year! We hope that one of these positions fits you. Keep in mind that if selected for an executive board position, you will have priority on any AB trips you wish to attend. Being apart of this executive board also serves as a resume booster, why would you turn this down?!

Executive Chair:
Do you like things in order? Want to manage a team that whose focus is on community service? AB exec chair is the position for you!

Fundraising Chair:
Do you like fundraising? Organize various fundraisers to lessen the cost of these AB trips. Develop strategies for the sponsor campaign as well.

Recruitment Chair:
Enjoy planning events? Want to spread the word about AB? AB needs someone like you to get the word out and help plan events that will draw people in! Is this position for you?

Marketing Chair:
Spread the word about AB with the recruitment chair. Through social networking sites and resources on campus, use publicity to push AB to the GMU community.

Team Development/Leadership Chair:
A dedicated leader is needed for the position. We need someone who will take responsibility for organizing events and working with the AB coordinator to book training that will be held in the fall. You will also provide  ideas to team leaders and build various activities needed for the success of this program.

If you or anyone you know is interested, please feel free to contact me with questions. Please do not hesitate to take this opportunity, it will be worth it!

Change is GOOD!

April 8, 2013

In order to fully grow and to fully change in an experience, most people think it takes weeks, months, or even years. I am proof that this is an inaccurate statement. In my time here at George Mason, I’ve participated in 2 Alternative Break trips. I went to Jamaica in the winter of 2012 and Philadelphia in the spring of 2013. Both trips were one week long, just ONE. These trips impacted me more than I could’ve ever imagined. Not only did I grow individually, but we grew as a group. Both trips allowed us to appreciate what we had back at home and cherish the little things we take for granted, such as hot water, a comfortable bed, and being able to walk outside and feel safe.

On both of these trips, we realized that in order to feel like you’re making a difference in society, community service is key! Of course, these trips don’t change you overnight, but after a week of being immersed into their culture and being accepting of their values, you begin to open your eyes and see the bigger picture. Change occurs around you every day, whether you accept it or not is your choice! Make the right choice and be a participant on an alternative break trip. It will be something you keep with you for the rest of your life so do not miss out, you will regret it. To learn more, check out our website !

Summer with AB–Does it get any better?

April 5, 2013

What is the best way to spend 1-2 weeks of your summer you ask? Without question, the answer is participating in some COMMUNITY SERVICE! Alternative Breaks here at GMU gives you on the opportunity to do just that. From May 25th- May 31st 2013, you have the chance to travel to Pine Ridge, SD. With this trip, you will have the opportunity to build relationships with the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation. In addition to that, you will assist with building affordable and adequate housing. This is once in a lifetime opportunity. Does Pine Ridge, SD not sound like the summer AB trip for you? No worries, we have another option. From May 25th- June 5th 2013, go to The Negev, Israel. This trip allows participants to work with peacebuilders, photographers, filmmakers, and health experts to with Bedouin youth. You get the chance to teach and learn at the same time in the Bedouin schools and camps. These are two opportunities you want to take full advantage so do so. Here’s the link..

Want to Lead? Alternative Breaks is just what you need!

March 29, 2013

At George Mason University, we have many opportunities available to keep interested students involved. With being involved in any organization on campus, we need students to go one step above and beyond. How can this be accomplished you ask? You can make that decision to be a leader and serve as a guide for other students to follow. Within the Alternative Break program here at GMU, we need trip leaders to satisfy various trips that will be held throughout the 2013-2014 school year. Leading a trip is a rewarding an experience that one is sure not to regret. Being a leader on this causes you to create a bond with all of your trip participants that is sure to last a lifetime. If you have a passion for community service or if you want to look more community service, leading an alternative break trip is for you! Please take the time to apply to a leadership position Your life will be forever changed!

Why it’s always Sunny in Philadelphia

March 19, 2013

Even though it rained and snowed during my week spent in North Philadelphia, to me it will always be sunny in Philadelphia.

Philly Read the rest of this entry »