CCEC gives students alternate spring break experiences

Since 1995, Ramapo students have been offered an opportunity to do an alternative break over winter and spring breaks. During the 2024 spring break, students were once again offered this opportunity.

The previous Assistant Director of Civic Engagement Karen Booth started the program in the fall of 1995. Booth founded these breaks to counter the excesses of “traditional” college spring breaks. She recognized the benefits of facilitating non-traditional experiences for students at Ramapo, creating a space for students to be active change-makers in the United States and global communities while also focusing on being alcohol and substance-free. With the help of her student staff, she was able to foster a culture centered around service and volunteerism at the college.

Current Coordinator for Community Engagement Allie Shapiro led the alternative spring break program this spring. She mentioned that programs from the past to now “allow students to gather with their peers to engage in civic and community-based learning.”

“This is done through immersive experiences such as volunteerism, cultural experiences and facilitated group discussions and reflections,” Shapiro said. The trips allow students to connect with different communities that they might not have been previously exposed to before and help build a group to focus on projects and areas of interest. 

The program is slowly recovering from the impact of COVID-19. In 2020, Ramapo had a full year of programs set, in which there were winter and spring break trips offered. According to Shapiro, this year is the first time in nearly five years that there was a full selection of trips offered for spring break. 

The trips offered this year included one to Hyde Park, New York, which was a commuting trip about food insecurity at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum; one to Dayton, Tennessee, which allowed students to work on and learn about trails; and one to Washington D.C., where students learned about history and culture of minorities by visiting museums. 

Trips like this often run from two to 10 days in length and can be within or outside of the U.S. This year, trips ran for the whole week of spring break, from March 16 to March 24. It allowed students to have the week to get the lay of the cities and become immersed inside the program. 

Freshman Ossiris Garcia, one of the students on the Washington D.C. trip, said that the trip was one that allowed her to step outside of her comfort zone and become more independent. Having never really traveled, Garcia saw this trip as an opportunity to try something new and experience life outside of campus.  

She said that she specifically chose this program because she has always enjoyed visiting museums and has never gone outside the state with her family. 

“I read about the opportunities that would be offered and saw that it was affordable and well worth the required payment,” she stated in an email. She said she has always wanted to visit Washington D.C. and used this experience to do it while she was at Ramapo. 

During the program, Garcia and fellow Ramapo students learned about the untold and hidden parts of African American history as well as how little is left of Native American history. She said that she recommends the program. 

“It is a great opportunity to meet new people, step outside of your comfort zone, visit new places, and learn new things at a reasonable price,” she stated. 

Forging friendships and exploring the city on their own is what created lasting memories for students involved in the program and what makes the program so successful overall. 

“While this was a school-funded program, I had a few non-educational experiences that led us to form friendships rather quickly and we still keep in touch,” Garcia stated. 

For any questions or interest in the alternative spring break program, visit the Civic and Community Engagement Center’s website.


Featured photo submitted by Allie Shapiro