Mason in the Community: Spring Break Recap

Last week, George Mason University students, in partnership with Break Away, participated in several exciting alternative break trips designed by students and staff to address social issues through meaningful community service and education.  Each of Mason’s trips challenged students to explore and address issues of discrimination, housing, hunger and poverty. These trips provided the opportunity for students to learn about social issues they are passionate about and allowed students to develop new perspectives that inspire them to be active and engaged citizens in their communities.

This year, Mason sent students on seven different domestic and international alternative spring break trips addressing the following community issues:

  • Indigenous Culture, Education and Equity (Guatemala): Students traveled to Xecanchovax, a rural indigenous community. They provided assistance in a local elementary school that offers education through the sixth grade with projects that include teaching English, dental hygiene, as well as environmental awareness. 
  • Literacy, Education and Equality (Jamaica): Students traveled to Jamaica and supported teachers by assisting with school maintenance and beautification projects as well as they spent time in the classroom and on the playground with the children. 
  • Ecosystem Restoration (Stuart, Florida): Students helped the community return land to its pre-development state. Projects included planting native trees and removing invasive plants, oyster reef building, beach cleanup and park maintenance. 
  • It’s Not Them but Us – Turning the Tide on HIV/AIDS (Washington, DC): Students provided meaningful service right in our own backyard in Washington, DC. They learned from organizations that educate, test and serve individuals with acute AIDS-related illness. Service included direct outreach to educate individuals in at-risk communities, supporting nonprofit fundraising efforts and friendly visits with individuals in health care facilities.
  • Community Activism/Homelessness (Camden, NJ): Students traveled to Camden and volunteered with grassroots organizations addressing the needs of Philadelphia youth through after school enrichment programs.
  • Development as Global Obligation (Human Rights in El Salvador): Students traveled to El Salvador and worked with Foundation Cristosal whose strategy is to build community capacity so that citizens can take the lead in organizing and establishing their own approaches to developing just and equitable communities.
  • Civil Rights and Youth (Selma, AL): Students volunteered with the Freedom Foundation and tutored K-12 students, coordinated after school programs and other extra-curricular activities; and saw first hand some of Selma’s struggles.

In addition to the alternative spring break trips offered during the semester, Mason runs a summer trip during the end of May to Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

  • Building Relationships and Adequate Housing (Pine Ridge, SD): Students volunteer with RE-MEMBER, a nonprofit organization, engages volunteers in service and cross-cultural learning in order to become advocates and stand in solidarity with the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge reservation. In addition to work assisting with building affordable and adequate housing, volunteers visit sites of historical significance and engage in cross-cultural learning.

If your student is interested in learning more about social issues, impacting change and meeting new people, encourage him or her to participate in a future alternative break! For more information, visit Social Action and Integrative Learning’s website.

Patty Mathison
Social Action and Integrative Learning