Creative writing and history major
College of Arts and Sciences, Marketing and Communication student employee
Community service and volunteering has always been a large part of what makes Western Michigan University so involved with Kalamazoo. However, efforts to make a difference aren't limited to the city of Kalamazoo, nor the state of Michigan. One of the University's Registered Student Organizations, Alternative Bronco Breaks, stands out among the nearly 375 because of the distances students are willing to go to make a change.
Alternative Bronco Breaks (ABB) is dedicated to creating an environment that empowers individuals through volunteering. ABB travels nationwide to change one community at a time by teaching, learning and growing. ABB offers three different service trips per year that include Alternative Winter Experience, Alternative Spring Break and Alternative Summer Experience.
The most recent trip, Alternative Winter Experience, took place the week after final exams and students volunteered in multiple different states for a variety of volunteer opportunities. The trips for AWE ’14 included:
- Children/Poverty with Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, MO
- Hunger/Terminal Illness with Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) in Philadelphia, PA
- AIDs/Terminal Illness with San Antonio Aids Foundation (SAAF House) in San Antonio, TX
- Poverty/Construction with Habitat for Humanity in Queens, NY
- Animals/Environment with the Loggerhead Marine Life Center/Blowing Rocks Preserve in Juno Beach/Hobe Sound, FL
- Veterans/Homeless with the Milwaukee Homeless Veterans Center in Milwaukee, WI
Excursions like AWE '14 influence more than those that are being served; the volunteers return to WMU with an experience that they will never forget. Katelyn McNerney, a sophomore majoring in public relations and minoring in nonprofit leadership and event management, took part in volunteering with the Loggerhead Marine Life Center and Blowing Rocks Preserve in Florida. McNerney said, "ABB is incredibly special because you leave for a week to volunteer and that’s what you think you’re going for. You think you’re going to meet new people and help an organization out. But when you leave, you leave changed. You left a piece of your heart with that trip. Strangers become friends and no one but those people have those memories with you."
Maurice Washington, a senior majoring in social work and minoring in political science and communication volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in New York. RSO’s are designed to get students involved, to give students new experiences and foster friendships, and to have academic, social and philanthropic foundations in which every student could benefit from. According to Washington, "What achieves this more than randomly pairing students up with strangers, sending them out to a faraway place to commit to some service under an organization and its leaders that have some interest that matches the students and so on and so forth? To my knowledge, an RSO doesn't exist that does all of that simultaneously and as well as ABB does."
Both McNerney and Washington recommend ABB to students interested in a life-changing experience. Washington says, "What ABB provides is unforgettable. There is nothing that comes close to what ABB does except study abroad programs, but this is much more feasible, convenient and safe." McNerney says, "If you want to volunteer, go somewhere new, come back changed, meet fellow passionate volunteering broncos, and love exploring, sign up for ABB and never turn back."
ABB brings students of different areas of study together for one cause: volunteering. For anyone looking to create the memory of a lifetime, ABB is definitely an opportunity to consider. ABB helps develop bonds and experiences that shape the lives of WMU students. For more information on ABB, please visit Alternative Bronco Breaks online.