by Carmen Ye
For students looking to apply theory to practice, service-learning programs such as Alternative Spring Break are a unique opportunity to learn in and outside the classroom. These programs allow students to engage in direct service work with community partners while also taking an associated course to learn about local issues. Trips can be a weekend or week long, take place domestically or internationally, and span a range of issues, including disaster relief, animal welfare, and homelessness. In today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up, we highlight 7 Minority Serving Institutions that offer service-learning trips.
1) Florida International University (HSI) – Miami, FL
In 2016, a group of FIU students went to Curacao, an island country in the southern Caribbean. Over the course of a week, the students cleaned up trash that was killing plants and preventing wildlife from reproducing. The process involved picking brown algae to turn into farm fertilizer, picking up 1,200 pounds of trash and dead seaweed, and planting mangrove propagules.
2) Xavier University (HBCU) – New Orleans, LA
Xavier offers a variety of service-learning trips during both the fall and spring semesters, with options to drive to local service sites or fly to more remote ones. One trip they completed in the spring focused on prevention and treatment education of substance abuse. Participants explored the issue of substance abuse and the effect that it has on individuals, families, and communities. Participants worked on a rehabilitation farm, performing tasks alongside the men in recovery that live there. The host organization focuses on community outreach, prevention, and treatment.
3) Fort Lewis College (NASNTI) – Durango, Colorado
In 2015, Fort Lewis College students traveled to Arizona to meet with the Grand Canyon Trust, a conversation group. They learned about how development has impacted northern Arizona and its people, meeting with Hopi and Navajo farmers who persevere in desert conditions with their traditional drought-resistant seeds. Service projects included digging ditches, weeding school gardens, and pruning fruit trees.
4) San Jose State University (AANAPISI) – San Jose, CA
Earlier this year, SJSU students traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico to work with the Ecoalebrijes Artisan Association of Arrazola. Their trip focused on community-driven projects to create a sustainable economy through art, community education, and environmental stewardship. Local artisans spoke with students about the importance of art and expression in Mexican life, and creating a sustainable local economy through sales of their alebrijes (Mexican folk art sculptures).
5) Spelman College (HBCU) – Atlanta, GA
In collaboration with Morehouse, Spelman students have gone to Haiti to continue rebuilding in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. Their work included cleaning up a recreational center, and removing grass and debris from a soccer field.
6) University of Massachusetts, Boston (AANAPISI) – Boston, MA
In 2016, UMass, Boston students traveled to Detroit, Michigan to engage with economic inequality and urban rebirth in the Motor City. Participants served meals to hungry and homeless people at Capuchin Soup Kitchen and supported Alternatives for Girls, which helps homeless and high-risk girls and young women through resources and opportunities offering safety and paths to positive choices.
7) St. Mary’s University (HSI) – San Antonio, TX
St. Mary’s in Texas offers a unique trip to Guayaquil, Ecuador to engage in theological reflection, social analysis, and relationship-building. Through immersing in the Ecuadorian culture through their Catholic faith, students are invited to grow in their faith more intentionally through a lens of justice, critical thinking, exploration of new expressions of faith, and a deeper understanding of the global church and community.
Know of other Service Learning Opportunities? Share them in the comments below!