by Maddi Georgoff
BG Alternative Breaks (bGAB) was founded on on the belief that we should “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” because as Margaret Mead proclaimed, “indeed, it is all that ever has.” This quote has guided our program since spring of 2013 when a timid sophomore decided to commit herself to planning a small service trip to Detroit, dipping her toes into this whole “alternative break thing” without realizing that she was discovering her true passion.
I have always been involved in service work, but my first alternative break was during the summer of 2013; amid the stress, confusion, and excitement of creating the foundations of an alternative break program. I had the opportunity to go to an alternative break conference in Detroit, MI that was organized like an alternative break (AB) with workshops intended for AB student leaders. Here, I learned about regional revitalization in the Detroit area and connected with other AB leaders from universities across the country. During that week, I realized that the alternative break movement that BGSU was joining is incredible and always growing. It was something that I knew I wanted to be a part of and had rapidly grown a passion for, a passion that would change my life.
The magic of an alternative break is found within the connections made between the communities and among the group of students. A new level of learning is achieved when students completely immerse themselves in an alternative break experience. Stereotypes are crushed, social issues are confronted, and active citizens are born. Education, direct service, and reflection. My experience on my first alternative break fueled my passion for pursuing social justice through service and I gained the tools needed to bring this movement to BGSU.
The first year of bGAB was a little rocky. As a novice program developer and fairly involved college student, my days were spent calling community partners, recruiting our program’s first true believers, and trying to set a standard for alternative breaks at BGSU for years to come. I was soon joined by a small executive board of student leaders who were influential in the process of creating this program, people who believed in the mission of bGAB and adopted the passion necessary to plan alternative breaks. Our first bGAB trip focused on Poverty and Homelessness in Detroit, MI, where 14 BGSU students served with two community partners during our four day fall break (2013). One thing that I’ve learned about alternative breaks is that there is no such thing as a perfect trip; something will not go as planned, but the nature of the trip allows for flexibility and adaptation. This trip had a few bumps and hiccups, but overall it was really successful and proved that all the blood, sweat, and tears that had been put into the program were actually worth something incredible.
The rest of the year was fantastically busy. Our executive board was becoming stronger and we decided to plan two trips for spring break, which took a lot of planning, coordination, and coffee. By the end of the year, we had a total of three alternative breaks under our belt, a Service-Learning award, and the genuine motivation to continue growing. Since our founding, bGAB has facilitated a total of 6 alternative breaks, recorded over 2021 hours of community service and we are currently planning four trips for spring 2015 with a collaborative trip with the Honors Learning Community as a fifth.
Reflecting on my time with bGAB, I have come to the simple conclusion that bGAB has changed me. bGAB has changed me for the better, pushing me to be a better version of myself and helping me challenge others to do the same. bGAB has allowed me to grow into a passion that I thought I would never be able to articulate, and enabled me to empower others to find theirs. bGAB has forced me to look adversity in the face and find intentional solutions to problems. bGAB has made me into the person I am today.
bGAB has made an impact, and the impact of bGAB has helped make me me.