Never Too Late

Choosing to forgo a traditional spring or winter break for one organized by Alternative Spartan Breaks is one of the best choices a student can make while attending Michigan State University. The personal requirements and the common discomforts are a very real part of the ASB experience, but so are the life-changing effects these trips have on an individual. I cannot think of another organization that has influenced its participants and leaders to change the focus of their majors towards more altruistic applications. My only regret was not becoming involved sooner in this organization that has developed one of the strongest communities not only on campus, but also throughout the country and the world.

Growing from ASB

It’s never too late to have the ASB experience. I began Alternative Spartan Breaks in my third year of school. I wanted to volunteer but also become an active citizen that understood the root of a social issue and participated in society to work towards a more just future. ASB was instrumental in becoming a better citizen as the primary goal is not to simply volunteer but to become a model citizen in every aspect. I applied for a trip in fall of 2013 to help International Rescue Committee of Atlanta, Georgia with incoming refugees from all parts of the world including countries throughout Africa, Nepal, and Afghanistan. Working with the refugees who came from all over the world and spoke little to no English was eye opening and inspiring to many of us. Because of the ASB experience’s impact, I felt compelled to return to ASB in more of a leadership role. I applied for a trip leader position and was given the opportunity to co lead a trip to Mission, South Dakota where we would focus on indigenous right in the US. Experiencing Alternative Spartan Break through the role of a trip leader was one of the most fulfilling responsibilities I did not expect. Because I first experienced ASB as a participant, I understood what the impact of these trips could offer and helping to orchestrate one of those trips, which could effect the group as my first trip had effected me, was something that was extremely satisfying to see develop.  

My final trip was the following year as a trip leader and went to Costa Rica to study and volunteer on a farm that promoted sustainability, ecotourism and education. Again, learning about the social issue was eye opening and captured the entire group in changing their ways of living as we all became aware of our impact on our community and in the world. As a direct result of this trip and the education we received, I became really involved in recycling and I became vegetarian. ASB’s structure lends itself to discovering roots of social issues and invites you to accept the challenge of being part of a solution in any and all ways possible.

From ASB to the Peace Corps

Before I finished my time at MSU, I knew I wanted to continue the example of active citizenship that ASB highlighted to everyone involved in the organization. After I completed my profound experience in Alternative Spartan Breaks, I applied for the Peace Corps to continue this communal experience of lending a hand to whoever is in need and listening to those experiencing social issues firsthand. I’m proud to say I used my experiences in ASB and other volunteer projects in my Peace Corps application and have been officially invited to serve in Ghana for over two years as a health professional. Experiencing Alternative Spartan Breaks during my time at Michigan State University was by far the most influential and clear guide to my future going forward and I believe anyone who participates in this organization will find theirs lives changed for the better.

    - Ryan A. Yantz