The Humans of Alternative Breaks project was launched to give all Alternative Breaks participants a platform for sharing stories about how they’ve been impacted by service experiences. Recently, a GVSU and AB alumna shared her story with us for the project.
In her contribution to Humans of AB, she reflected on her experiences during the spring 2014 Park Preservation trip in Hungry Mother State Park. Inspired by her alternative break, she returned to the park after graduation. What began as a seasonal position grew into a permanent job and a passion for environmental education.
Her story illustrates how an alternative break is much more than just a week-long trip. One’s experience can lead to self-discovery and a lifelong passion for active citizenship.
Alternative Breaks, More Than Just a Trip
“With the suggestion and encouragement of my roommate, I signed up for an Alternative Spring Breaks trip my senior year. Little did I know, it would change my life immensely.
During the start of my last semester, I found out I had the opportunity to go on the Park Preservation trip at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia. I was excited, nervous, and especially curious as to why they would name a state park “Hungry Mother.” I remember the send-off meeting in particular. A guest speaker came and discussed how his ASB trips and experiences had changed his life for the greater good. I remember thinking how awesome it was that a student organization at Grand Valley had such an impact on his life.
My trip started at 5 am in the typical Michigan spring break weather – snow. It was a ten hour journey down to Virginia in a van with eleven strangers. Those next five days at Hungry Mother were amazing. We cleaned cabins and campsites, did trail work, and installed fish habitat in the lake.
But it was the little things that made this trip so special. Having the opportunity to talk with the park employees and friends group was a sweet reminder as to why we were there. They love their jobs and they all have a special connection to the park whether it was the place they spent their childhood summer vacations or relatives that helped build the park. The different projects we worked on seemed so minuscule but it was so much more than that.
I was very fortunate to be able to return to Hungry Mother after I graduated from Grand Valley. What started as a seasonal position has turned into not only a permanent job but a passion. My job’s main focus is on environmental education. My goal is to connect our park visitors to nature and to help them gain a greater appreciation for the environment. No two days are ever the same. I have met so many amazing people in Southwest Virginia, the place I now call home. Whenever I am asked how I ended up down here (the Northern accent sticks out in Southwest Virginia), I tell them about Alternative Breaks, this amazing organization that is more than just a trip.
It’s been almost three years since that amazing experience and I think about it often. I think about those 11 strangers that turned it to great friends. I think about the laughs and memories that were created that week. I think about how those projects we worked on during our trip have benefited the park – and it truly has. Grand Valley has been coming to Hungry Mother for an ASB trip for the past 16+ years and I always look forward to the new group that comes each spring, because they are a part of the legacy here at the park.
“…that’s what I love about these trips, they change us, inspire us, motivate us, and remind us that we all have the ability to change the world.”
I signed up for an Alternative Breaks trip to give back to the community but somehow in the midst of it all, I managed to receive far more than I could have ever imagined. And that’s what I love about these trips, they change us, inspire us, motivate us, and remind us that we all have the ability to change the world.”
Visit the Humans of Alternative Breaks page to read more stories about Alternative Breaks experiences! If you have a story you’d like to contribute to the project, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.