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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

AltBreak starts exchange

Over winter break, 10 Grinnell students will travel to southern Texas to learn about immigration as part of a new extension of the Alternative Break program.

AltBreak is a student-led program that runs volunteer trips over Fall and Spring break. This year, Grinnell is collaborating with the University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) to run a special Alt Break exchange.

Students from each school will spend the week starting Jan. 7 at UTPA in Edinburg, TX, across from the Mexican border, volunteering in a neighborhood with a predominantly immigrant population. In May, the same students will spend a week at Grinnell working with immigrant communities in Iowa and seeing a very different kind of experience.

“This is a brand new project unlike anything we’ve every done before,” said Director of Social Commitment and AltBreak administrator Doug Cutchins ’93.

Because the trip to Texas will focus on Hispanic immigrants, leaders of the Student Organization of Latino/as (SOL) were asked to oversee the trip. Luz Aleman ’13, Hanan Romodan ’13, and Guadalupe Osorio ’13, all SOL cabinet members, will all be trip leaders.

Aleman hopes her experience with AltBreak will help her be more involved in the future.

“It’s important for me…to be able to say, ‘I can do more, I can help more, I can do this, because this trip gave me the confidence to do more,’” Aleman said.

The trip leaders, along with AltBreak Coordinators Tyler Banas ’13 and Radka Slamova ’13 will plan a schedule for the program at Grinnell in May. They may model their week after two previous AltBreak trips that stayed in Grinnell. Participants will likely work in Marshalltown and Des Moines, among other local areas.

“They may have never even thought about immigration in an Iowa context,” Cutchins said.

Aleman thinks that seeing the effects of immigration and poverty in Texas and in Iowa will encourage SOL leaders to get more involved in Grinnell and nearby communities.

“It’s taking those issues down, making it more personal,” Aleman said.

SOL has other plans to volunteer locally, including hosting a “penny wars” campaign—where participates compete to collect the most spare change—to raise money for schools in Marshalltown.

Cutchins also hopes the Grinnell students will become friends with the UTPA students they will work and live with during the January and May trips.

“To get to know students from a different university and work with cooperatively—I’m excited about it.”
Banas’ first experience on an AltBreak style trip was at a national conference of Break Away, an organization of Alternate Break programs from schools across the country. He hopes the students on this trip have a similar experience to his.

“I really grew a lot from [the Break Away conference],” Banas said, “and that showed me how others can grow.”

Applications are due tomorrow (November 13, 2010) before midnight noon and are available in the mailroom or by emailing

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  • A

    AltbreakNov 12, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    There is a typo: the application deadline is at NOON, not at midnight. Thanks, Altbreak

  • A

    AltbreakNov 12, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Hey all, the apps are due at NOON tomorrow. If you were basing your timing on this story, let us know, but we hope that you already have your apps done?