Alternative Stories #9: An unexpected education

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 hear from sophomore site-leader and Secondary Education major Grace Beckman. 

zach2My hometown, Greenville, is a small conservative town in western Michigan, consisting of a mere 8,000 people. Ann Arbor, however, has opened my eyes to many things, both positive and negative, that I had not been exposed to growing up. I always felt a step behind when talking about my social identity or social justice because I hadn’t had the same experiences as many others around me. Being a member of Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP), a learning program based on community service and social justice, was my first exposure to many social issues, and opened my eyes to many topics for the first time. However, Alternative Spring Break is where I’ve been able to address these issues directly while strengthening my personal identity and understanding the importance of service-learning.

I was placed on a Youth and Education trip my freshman year, where I had the opportunity to work with Junior Achievement in Louisville, KY. While in Louisville, my team and I led middle school students in simulation projects to better understand the importance of budgeting their money. Prior to this trip, I took my education for granted; college was something that had always been expected of me. But these students taught me much more with their excitement and eagerness to learn than I could have ever taught them in financial literacy.zach

The most meaningful aspect of ASB is its ability to leave lasting effects. Not only do you gain authentic friendships (that is a big part of it), you return home wanting to make a difference. Before my trip, I was convinced that I wanted to go into business. I had taken business classes in high school and competed in marketing competitions, and I thought that it was what I meant to do, but after spending a week in Louisville, I realized my passion for working to improve the education system. It is no secret that the education system in the United States needs improvement, but it was not until I saw the discrepancies firsthand that I realized that I wanted to be a part of that change.

I am fortunate to be surrounded by hardworking and motivated individuals through the Alternative Spring Break organization at the University of Michigan. I have no doubt that those whom I’ve met will make a difference in their given fields of studies, and will continue to incorporate their experiences with social justice into their daily lives.

To share your Alternative Spring Break story, e-mail the ASB Public Relations Team at