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A Living Lab

April 30, 2019

While spring break offers many a "vacation mentality," the Lasell Alternative Break (LAB) program focuses on the themes and goals for each of its trips, rather than the opportunity to get away.

Many colleges and universities offer alternate break programs, but what sets those at Lasell apart is its "cause-first" approach. Each LAB trip location is a mystery to students who sign up. Rather than select the city they'll be serving in, they opt-in based on a list of causes selected by peer leaders and guided by the College's Center for Community-Based Learning (CCBL).  

"The Lasell Alternative Breaks are designed to connect students and community members while fostering personal growth, mutual awareness, and lifelong learning," says TD "Byrd" Hughes, associate director of the CCBL. Through student-led programming, she adds, participants provide needed services to communities around the country while gaining a better understanding of their connection to important social issues.  

This year, the LABs program expanded to include three trips. Remington Morris '19 and Lily Anderson '19 led 7 students to Boise, Idaho, where they volunteered at Boise Rescue Mission Ministries' River of Life Men's Shelter, the Idaho Foodbank, Idaho Youth Ranch, and Interfaith Sanctuary to better understand issues of homelessness in that community.  

Lasell College Students on a LABs Trip to Boise, Idaho

Emma Witbeck '19, Nicole Glendye '19, and Alexander MacDonald '19 worked with another 10 students in Blairsville, Georgia, where they assisted the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club's conservation efforts at Lance Creek and Cut Locust Gap. At the same time, Rosa Del Carmen Gomez '20, Kevin Joyce '19, and Hayden Wheeler '20 created and led a trip of 10 students to Houston, Texas to assist with disaster recovery efforts in partnership with TX Volunteer SBP and West Street Recovery.  

Lasell College Students on a LABs Trip to Blairsville, Georgia

"I asked one of our leaders to describe how this program can advance social justice," said Hughes. "Their response was that LABs were 'Connected Learning at its finest,' and an opportunity to show 'students how to combine their passions, goals, and academic majors with service work.'"  

Trip leaders are selected nearly a year in advance and are required to attend a professional development conference through Break Away, a national nonprofit focused on these types of service programs.  

"Our mission is to serve individuals in any way we can for the short time that we are there," said Wheeler.  

Lasell College Students on a LABs Trip to Houston, Texas

That includes the participants themselves. A big take away from those conferences that has shaped the LAB program is built-in reflection time. Each group stays in private, house-based lodging to create another layer of community and to ease opportunities for serious, sometimes emotional discussions of what took place on site.  

"Our group had a big impact on those experiencing homelessness," said Morris, "and [also] on each other."