Alternative Breaks goes virtual

LMU's Alternative Breaks program cannot attend their trips in person this year, but they nevertheless remain committed to their goals of service and action. 

LMU’s Alternative Break (AB) trips have been a staple of the Center for Service and Action (CSA) since 2003. During school breaks, CSA coordinates both local and international trips for students who choose to spend their time off learning about social justice issues.

Over the years, AB has planned trips to at least 22 domestic locations and 26 international locations, focusing on social justice issues such as housing, the criminal justice system, immigration, human trafficking, climate change, racial justice, women’s rights and more.

Students who participate in the trips are expected to meet with their trip cohorts multiple times throughout the semester to learn about the social justice issue at hand. Then, during their trip, they do more active learning. After the trip, the cohort returns to campus to implement social justice initiatives based on what they discovered while on AB. Overall, AB trips are not just about travel — they are about learning and engaging with justice and communities.

This year, AB is going virtual. Interim director of AB Alyssa Perez is excited about the transition, expressing that through a virtual AB, “students will still be able to experience all the best parts of AB, namely that they are learning about specific social justice issues and meeting directly with people in the communities that we are partnering with.” Perez said that despite the pandemic, “CSA is committed to...still provid[ing] impactful education experiences to students interested in social justice.”

Going virtual gives AB students even more opportunities as well. Perez explained how students can now meet with community partners from multiple countries throughout the course of their program. The virtual transition even allowed CSA to partner with countries that students could not previously travel to, like El Salvador.

She also explained that the culture of AB did not change because of COVID. “The main goals of the AB program, aside from immersion, are to educate students on relevant social justice issues and the structures that perpetuate [them], encourage reflection and develop critical thinkers that will question the root causes of these problems and take initiative to create social change,” Perez said. “Those same goals are being achieved through the virtual experiences, it just looks a little different this year.” Perez believes that virtual participants will still have impactful and engaging experiences, and that the virtual trips will inspire lifelong action in students just as the in-person trips do.

Alexis Canyon, a senior sociology major, has been a large part of AB for the past several years. She has been a student leader on two separate in-person trips, one to Tucson, Arizona to focus on immigration, and one to Chicago, Illinois to learn about racial justice and white supremacy. This year she will be virtually leading a trip to Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador to focus more on racial justice.

The transition to a virtual AB has been “a complete shift, but AB has continued to implement the same intention,” Canyon said. She misses the face-to-face connections of traditional AB trips, but nonetheless is working hard to bridge the virtual divide through initiatives such as virtual tours of the cities they are visiting.

Canyon said she is most excited about making connections for her upcoming AB trip. “AB trips humanize people across borders,” she said — and she believes this can be done virtually as well.

AB is planning more trips throughout the rest of the year, with a potential for being in-person. To apply or stay up to date on new information, visit their website.

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