Alternative Stories #16: Why I value community partnerships

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 Geena Kerr, a junior majoring in Movement Science and Women’s Studies, and a Site Development ASB Lead Team member. 

IMG_2503The University of Michigan’s Alternative Spring Break program has provided me not only a week-long exploration of service learning, but also a lifelong journey of active citizenship and social justice education. The program has exposed me to social justice issues and individual perspectives that have challenged my personal thoughts and opinions. The growth I have experienced through ASB is unparalleled.

My ASB story began as a participant my freshman year on the Health Sciences Scholars collaboration trip to Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for Children in Killeen, TX. Under the Health and Disability topic group, this trip not only introduced me to amazing children, passionate camp staff and lifelong friends, but also to the importance of language and the impact it can have on individuals and society. After that transformational week, I knew I wanted to continue to be part of ASB. The following year, I was a site leader for the LGBTQ Awareness trip to the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit. This trip was very different from my first, but no less transformational. Language, especially pronoun use, was central to many of our reflections, and helped me to continue my understanding of the consequences of what I say and how I say it. Having the opportunity to work with a community so close to Ann Arbor was amazing. The change in perceptions of Detroit that I saw in my co-site leader, our participants, and myself speaks to the importance of the hands-on service, learning, and reflection that ASB prides itself on.

7578_10200943232806903_1229157710_n (1)This past year, I took on a very different role in the ASB community. I joined Site Development on the Leadership Team and have been able to grow my critical thinking and communication skills. As a member of Site Development, I work with my team to create and cultivate meaningful partnerships with organizations around the country that align with our mission and provide opportunities for both service and learning. ASB’s community partners are at the core of our program and the work and education they allow us to take part in is what makes the week-long trips such amazing experiences. While I may not be working with the community partners on location, I have had the opportunity to learn from and work with the organizations in a different way. I have had the chance to communicate with organizations that have been with ASB from the very beginning, like Cranks Creek Survival Center in Harlan, KY, which has taught me the importance of our continued partnerships. I have worked to continue partnerships that are newer to our program, like Camp for All in Burton, TX, who had anticipated my call and genuinely looked forward to this year’s group of students. This year, we were also able to expand our program and begin partnerships with new communities like Green Light New Orleans in Louisiana, which I hope can be continued in the future. Our community partners provide our trips with more than we could ever give back, and for that I am grateful.

Alternative Spring Break has challenged me to think about what it means to be a socially just person.  It has provided me with the knowledge, resources, and confidence to grow and make and advocate for change.

To share your Alternative Spring Break story, e-mail the ASB Public Relations Team at ASBSurPRise@umich.edu.

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