Alternative Spring Break Program Offers Important Lessons in Cultural Immersion

Alternative Spring Break Program Offers Important Lessons in Cultural Immersion

March 28, 2013

For some college students, a week without classes equates to a week with an ocean view and tropical cocktails. But for students of Lasell College, spring break presents an opportunity to serve those in need.

Lasell's Center for Community-Based Learning traveled with 12 students on a weeklong service trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico for spring break where they partnered with the Native Health Initiative -- an organization dedicated to addressing the health inequities of Native American tribes by creating and driving compassionate service projects.

The students supported the mission of the Native Health Initiative by working at a local food bank, packaging enough pasta to feed 500 families, participating in the celebration of Laguna Pueblo's Feast Day, hosting an Easter egg hunt for the senior residents of Acoma Senior Center and visiting Sky City at Acoma Pueblo - the longest inhabited Native American community in North America.

According to Lasell College's Assistant Director of the Center for Community Based Learning, Amy Greene, the trip emphasized not only physical service, but also a great deal of cultural immersion. "This is a unique service trip in the sense that the students really come to appreciate and understand the culture of the people they're serving," said Greene. "It's the conversations had and the smiles shared along the way that make this service trip so meaningful."

In addition to partnering with the Native Health Initiative, the students spent time volunteering at La Plazita Institute, a non-profit grassroots organization that supports the region's youth and elder communities as they transition from a destructive lifestyle to one of respect, honor, love and family, through a comprehensive and holistic cultural approach. The group also visited The South Valley Economic Development Center in Albuquerque where they learned about the organization's mission of providing facilities, resources and training for new and expanding small businesses in order to create new jobs and to foster the economic revitalization of the community.

"I enjoyed the trip not only for the service we did, but also for what we learned about the culture," said junior Flannagh Fitzsimmons.

"Each day in New Mexico was inspiring and helped me learn about myself," said senior Barbara Wrenn.

The students who traveled on the trip were: Barbara Wrenn '13 (co-coordinator), Sheldine Jean-Baptiste '13 (co-coordinator), William Dempsey '13, Tier Gibbons '15, Danielle Cutillo '15, Madelyn Torres '16, Kevin Moloney '14, Kevin Lilly '14, Colbylyn Gilman '16, Nicole Taft '14, Jasmine Villanueva '13, and Flannagh Fitzsimmons '14. Assistant Director of the Center for Community-Based Learning and Byrd Hughes, MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA supervised the trip.