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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Students cede Fall Break to service through AltBreak and ReNew

For most Grinnellians, Fall Break was a much needed nine-day release from the stress of school—an excellent opportunity to sleep in, eat too much, and catch up with all the TV shows that they had missed over the semester. Some students passed over these luxuries and instead chose to participate in service work outside of Grinnell through ReNew or AltBreak.

This break, four AltBreak groups and one ReNew group travelled to Osceola, Wis., Minneapolis, Cherokee Nation, OK, Joplin, MO and Biloxi, Miss.

The group that travelled to Osceola, WI spent time at “Community Homestead,” a non-profit organization that applies a philosophy of “anthroposophy” which emphasizes the idea that everyone holds value. They worked on an organic farm with members of the community, many of whom had mental disabilities.

For trip leader Kyle Walters’12 , this proved to be a great learning experience, in terms of the work that he did there, learning from the members of the community and the relationships that he built with the Grinnellians in his AltBreak group.

“I learned a lot, not only about agriculture, which I knew I’d learn about since I knew very little to begin with, but also about a community with a philosophy,” Walters said. “There were times when I couldn’t tell who had a disability and who didn’t, since nobody told us. They were all just people, and positive, outgoing, confident people at that and the group of Grinnellians was phenomenal, just as enthusiastic, goofy, and ready for anything as you could ask for.”

Another group went to Minneapolis, MN, where they fundraised for a local pantry and tutored immigrants and refugees at Wellstone High School. Participants in this group worked with people of different ages and were thus able to engage with many of their students on a personal level.

“[We] got to know immigrants on a personal level and some of us participants made friends with the students,” said trip leader William Barber ’13.

“I’m also an immigrant, and I moved here when I was five…Working with the kids at Wellstone reminded me of how hard it is to come here,” said Ka Ming Wong ’13.

AltBreakers travelling to Cherokee Nation, OK, worked with children at the Early Headstart Childhood Center and spent time with members of the Cherokee community, learning about the culture in the process.

“We took a two hour Cherokee language course, we met an alum and learned about Will Rogers, and went to a cultural heritage center. We happened to have the inauguration ceremony [of a new Cherokee chief] during that week. We learned a lot about things we didn’t know about,” Joe Hiller ’12 said.

Two of the trips this year focused on demolition and reconstruction efforts. The AltBreak trip, led by RLC Dan Hirsch, helped with tornado relief in Joplin, MO and ReNew traveled to Biloxi, MS.
Each group had participants from across class years but managed to build strong communities through different methods, ranging from a no-laptop policy to a regularly updated quote board.

Despite the varied activities that each group was engaged in, an overarching theme seemed to be one of appreciation and service.

“It’s just a way of giving back, especially when you’re so privileged and at a school like Grinnell,” said Cynthia Amezcua ’14.

“Getting away from Grinnell was great,” said Walters, “I feel like seeing somewhere else not only gives me a new experience, but helps me appreciate what I have here too… it’s great knowing we did something lasting and helpful.”

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