Every week, members and partners of the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) community will share their Alternative Stories, a series of narratives inspired by the experiences, memories, and meanings made and shared through ASB. This week, we introduce Ryan Yucha, a senior majoring in Microbiology and French, with a minor in the History of Medicine and Health. Ryan is also a PR member of the ASB Lead Team.
I applied for Alternative Spring Break (ASB) because everyone was doing it. The learning community I was in my freshman year had its own site, so the prospect of going on a trip with all of my friends seemed pretty appealing to me. So, I sent in my application, did the interview and — alas! — I didn’t get a spot on the trip. Having gotten excited about going on an ASB trip, however, I applied to go on trip that wasn’t associated with a learning community. This time, I got a spot.
I went to New York City to work with God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD) helping prepare and deliver meals to those who had ailments that prevented them from leaving their homes very often. I was able to learn about issues surrounding HIV/AIDS (which is why GLWD was founded), other illnesses, hunger, and food waste. The trip was very eye-opening for me, and it exposed me to real world issues that I had never encountered before.
Because my freshman-year trip was such a positive experience for me, I decided to come back my sophomore year as a site leader — not really knowing what I was getting myself into. It was a lot of work. My life consisted of hour-and-a-half meetings every week, coordinating trips, additional trip meetings, fundraising, and a lot more. I began to ask myself if it was really all worth it.
Once it was time for our trip, however, it was without a doubt worth it. Site leading was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve done in all of college. I led a trip to Fort Worth, TX. working with another HIV/AIDS non-profit: Samaritan House. Samaritan House is an amazing organization that provides homes for people who are afflicted with HIV/AIDS and are also homeless. They provide housing, food, medicine, counseling, therapies, support, and more.
I was blown away by this organization. I learned so much about the way HIV/AIDS can affect a person’s life as well as those around them. Everyone on the trip grew so much from the stories told by the unbelievably kind people at Samaritan House. It was my job, then, to help guide the reflections so that everyone could learn as much as possible from the day’s happenings.
I was nervous about my abilities to lead such a group, many of whom were older than me, in a dialogue aimed at taking away lessons from the day. I had no choice, however, and was able to take part in, and lead, really meaningful discussions at the end of each day. This is when I realized my own abilities to lead a group of people with varying backgrounds, interests, and identities. Site-leading a trip helped me to learn not only about HIV and homelessness, but it also taught me how to be a better leader and to be confident in my own abilities. My ASB site-leading experience was one of my most transformative to date, and I would not trade it for anything.
To share your Alternative Spring Break story, e-mail the ASB Public Relations Team at ASBSurPRise@umich.edu.