Students Join Alternative Spring Breaks


Dartmouth students’ ethic of volunteerism is evident this March as more than 60 students (see a list) participate in the Tucker Foundation’s  Alternative Spring Breaks. The trips run from March 17 through March 28. Students are posting comments about their experiences on the new blog, OurDartmouth.

Ben Campbell ’10 of Pittsburgh, Pa., co-leader of this year’s trip to the Dominican Republic, participated in the same trip in 2008.


Lauren Reiser ’11 works with students on the 2008 Alternative Spring Break in the Dominican Republic. (Photo courtesy Lynn White Cloud)

“It made the issues that I was learning about in class that much more pressing, and it heightened the purposefulness of my education,” says Campbell.

This year, among other projects, Campbell and the 12 other students (selected from more than 80 applicants) are helping build an Internet café in Samán, a community located near the border of Haiti. Community members and students hope the café will provide a place for socialization and commerce.

Before a sugar plantation closed, the village was known as a batey—an impoverished place where families’ lives depend on employment in the adjacent plantation. Bateyes “exist in isolation from mainstream society,” Professor of African and African American Studies Antonio Tillis told the students in an educational session prior to the trip.

At a send-off on March 10, President Jim Yong Kim congratulated the participants and gave them some advice. “You’re going to have to be a little more followers and co-workers and it’s going to be hard for you, because you were chosen because you’re leaders,” said Kim, who worked with many student volunteers as executive director of the non-profit organization Partners in Health.

Kim said the experiences “will stay in your heads and hearts for the rest of your lives.”

Students learn while performing a variety of services, such as talking with Lakota youth in South Dakota about college, teaching English to adult migrant workers in Florida, or participating in health education sessions in rural Appalachia. The trips, which are directed by at least two students and a Dartmouth faculty or staff member, visit the same locations for a minimum of three years. Learn more about the trips.

The unique San Francisco trip, Faith in Action, brings together people from different religious backgrounds as they volunteer at a homeless shelter. Past participant Ahmad Nazeri ’11, a Muslim student originally from Afghanistan, says: “It was really a life-changing experience, and I became interested in social justice as a result.” Nazeri is a co-leader this year.

Helen Damon-Moore, director of Tucker’s service and educational programs, says Dartmouth’s student-led educational sessions and required reading make the trips especially meaningful.


During an educational session for the Dominican Republic trip, Antonio Tillis, associate professor of African and African American Studies (center) and Rebecca Galembo ’03, visiting professor of Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Studies (right) spoke with students. (photo by Steve Smith)

“The sessions help participants put their work in the community into a larger context and integrate theory with practice,” she says. “They also help students analyze their motivations and goals.”

See the reading lists for the trips.

Stephanie Chan ’12 of Burlington Vt., a pre-med student, says she is participating in the Appalachia trip “to put a human face on rural health care.” Chan, who spent a previous spring break in Cancun, says, “I think this will be more rewarding.”

In addition to the Tucker Foundation trips, the student-run Dartmouth Global Leadership Project (DGLP) is operating service projects with teenagers in El Rosario, Honduras, Hartford, Vt., and Houston, Texas. Students from the Navigators Christian Fellowship are working with Habitat for Humanity in Miami, and students with Dartmouth Hillel, a center for Jewish life at the College, are working with youth in Israel.

Steven Smith