Serve the Community this Fall Break with the Bennion Center

Five days off school means sleeping in for most students, but for a handful this year’s Fall Break will mean a week full of service.

The Bennion Center’s Alternative Fall Breaks program is providing four opportunities for students to engage in volunteer-based experiences, including a new weekend option.

Laura Schwartz, Alternative Breaks staff coordinator, said while most of the alternative fall break trips take place in different cities and states, the weekend trip to Salt Lake City provides a cheaper and shorter option for students to serve the community.

She said about 200 students total participate annually in the spring and fall trips, and the program has continued to progress from its start in the late 1990s.

“One of the fun things about working with people and social issues is that needs are constantly evolving and changing,” Schwartz said. “We, as a program, try to meet those needs.”

Tina Xu, student chair for Alternative Breaks and a senior in biology, said each trip tackles a different social issue and appeals to a wide range of student interests. Students who are interested in one of the four fall options can apply by Friday, Sept. 11.

Hunger and Food Justice

Taking place in Salt Lake City, this activity will examine food justice. Students will work with the Utah Food Bank and Community Gardens to observe accessibility to food, focusing on at-risk populations. As the cheapest option, it will cost $45 and run from Oct. 9 to Oct. 11.


Animal Advocacy and Rehabilitation

For animal lovers, there is a trip to Kanab, Utah, that partners with the Best Friends Animal Society. Volunteers clean cages, interact with animals such as dogs and horses, and learn how to advocate for animals.

“The students always have the opportunity to connect with at least one of the animals,” Xu said.

This trip’s price, along with all other week-long trips, covers transportation, food and lodging. The total comes to $385 and students will depart Oct. 10.


Youth Empowerment and Education Trip

Also on Oct. 10, students will leave for Sacramento, California, to partner with elementary, middle and high school students through Teach for America. This is the Bennion Center’s second year with this trip, and the location changes annually based on need.

Teach for America lines U volunteers up with local students for tutoring, college workshops and mentoring. The trip costs $530 — the most expensive of the four options.

Identity and Environmental Exploration

This service opportunity is designed for first-generation college students at no cost after a refundable $50 down payment, as the trip is covered by donations from the U’s Parent Fund and the Alternative Breaks program.

Luis Vidal, a junior in geology, has participated in both the Animal Advocacy trip and this Identity and Environmental Exploration outing to the San Rafael Swell.

“There you come to learn you are not alone in the community as a first-generation college student,” he said. “Other people are having similar struggles, or even different struggles, but you can help each other out by just talking about it.”

The focus of this trip is environmental stewardship, as well as reflection on what it means to be a first-generation student. Volunteers participate in numerous group-building opportunities while hiking, climbing, camping and doing trail and park maintenance.

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