Alternative Stories #1: Understanding my impact

Every week, members and partners of the ASB community will share their Alternative Stories, a series of narratives inspired by the experiences, memories, and meanings made and shared through Alternative Spring Break. Our first contributor is Andrea Case, an Engineering junior and ASB Lead Team member on our Finance & Fundraising functional team. 

20130308_182351My mom, who was familiar with Alternative Breaks from her time at Vanderbilt, actually encouraged me to apply for Alternative Spring Break (ASB) my freshman year. I applied for a Youth and Education trip, interviewed, and was eventually selected to participate on a trip to Asian Youth Services (AYS) in Chicago, Ill. AYS is an after-school center that works to foster academic success and guide students out of poverty and to value education. During my time at AYS, I had the opportunity to work individually with two third-grade boys. We talked about school, their favorite subjects, and what their aspirations were. Every night, our group sat around and reflected on the day. Each reflection seemed to delve deeper into the issues surrounding education disparities, and I often left with an overshadowing thought of, how much of an impact could I really make on these kids in a week? I knew that I had to make every moment count, and eventually realized that, though a week is not a significant amount of time, by empowering the children at AYS, my impact could be significant and sustainable. I also had the opportunity to meet incredible participants from diverse backgrounds, whom I’m proud to call my ASB family. During my week with them, I learned about their backgrounds, motivations and goals, and I was inspired by their stories and perspectives.

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When I got back to Michigan, I was excited to tell my friends about the positive experience I had. Sitting in the dining hall, my friends and I shared the various things we did over spring break. I excitedly told everyone that I volunteered at AYS, tutoring children, to which an acquaintance responded by ridiculing me and naively making assumptions about the needs of the community. A couple people at the table laughed. It then struck me that my peers weren’t as aware of or educated about these important social issues, many of which are prevalent in our own community in Ann Arbor. It saddened me that my peers did not seem to care about how detrimental these stereotypes can be, and even how hurtful our words can be. By participating in ASB, I gained a new perspective that changed the way I viewed my role as a student, person, and citizen. ASB gave me the courage to stand up and talk about topics that I am passionate about and meet other students in my community who are committed to social change, heightening awareness, student leadership, empowerment, and teamwork.

Excited for an ASB trip of your own? Apply here before Oct. 23! 

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