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Spring Break. Service Learning Style.

Ahhhhh…the invigoration of a fun-filled, sun-filled spring break.  This Week @ Kirtland, we are back to the books, full of fresh energy and ready to keep pursuing our educational goals after a much-needed spring break. Maybe your break was spent at home.  Or, maybe you were lucky enough to take a quick trip.  For a group of Kirtland’s Service Learning students, spring break meant a trip to New York to help others.

Kirtland's Alternative Spring Break in New York

Kirtland’s Alternative Spring Break in New York

Kirtland’s AmeriCorps*VISTA, Sarah Johnson, is the person who spearheaded the movement to get some Kirtland students involved in an alternative spring break focusing on the social issue of “Housing Insecurity.”  Sarah was joined by Kirtland instructor Katie Beckman and eight students:  Shantel Lansford, Jordan Yaklin, Sean Weeks, Sophie Butcher, Cindy Graham, Nathan Stockmeyer, Alex Baudoux and Jill Orzechowski.

Using the power of the internet, Sarah found three non-profit organizations in New York to put this group to work, as well as a church in Brooklyn to provide housing during their stay“We partnered with three different non-profits:  New York City Council Against Hunger (NYCCAH), Covenant House, and Habitat for Humanity,” said Sarah. “We spent the first day with NYCCAH, assembling binders of information and resources regarding hunger in New York City.  Day two was spent with Covenant House, an organization that provides food, housing, job training, clothing, childcare, etc., for youth affected by homelessness.  We sorted donations and helped some of the youth pick out clothing for job interviews.  The final three days of the break were spent with Habitat for Humanity.  We primed and painted several units in a condo in Brooklyn.”

Kirtland is part of the nationwide non-profit alternative break organization called Break Away.  Break Away partners with approximately 175 chapter schools (and only six community colleges – way to go, Kirtland!) to pursue its vision of creating a society of active citizens. Nonprofits help Break Away fulfill its mission of training, assisting and connecting campuses and communities in promoting quality alternative break programs.  During their service trip, Kirtland’s group provided about 35 hours of service work.

“As a group, they really seemed to enjoy the Habitat project,” said Sarah.  “We were able to partner with several AmeriCorps members from around the country.  Our students were able to hear about other people’s experiences following college and how they chose to do service work projects.  We especially enjoy the physical labor projects – it is very rewarding to see the work you’ve completed and just how much you are helping these families.”

And, because hard work deserves a little reward now and again, the Service Learning group was fortunate to find some free time for sightseeing as well.  Other highlights of the trip included visits to Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, a Staten Island ferry trip to view the Statue of Liberty and roaming the exciting streets in Times Square.

So, whether you relaxed at home, on a sunny beach or in a big city, hopefully spring break left you with an extra spring in your step.  Maybe you can find a way to channel some of your renewed energy and lend a hand to someone in your neighborhood or community.  Don’t be surprised to find that helping others can be a great way to help yourself!


To learn more about the programs, advising, testing, financial aid and other services available to students, contact 989-275-5000, extension 258, or visit us online.  And, as always, you are invited to drop in and check us out at, follow us on Twitter at, and like us on Facebook at

Your future.  It’s closer than you think.  And it all begins @ Kirtland!