Local CMU student volunteering through Alternative Break program

MOUNT PLEASANT – While most students are headed to warmer climates, Central Michigan University student Krista Testolin of Iron Mountain is giving up her spring break this year in favor of helping with state parks preservation in Surry, Va.

Central Michigan University students traveled across the country during spring break through CMU’s Alternative Break program. The 145 student volunteers are providing assistance in 11 states to assist with state parks preservation.

Testolin will spend this week completing garden work, trail maintenance and light building maintenance.

Saginaw junior Marie Remiers hopes to gain a better understanding of social change and social justice on her first Alternative Breaks trip.

“Alternative Break has allowed me to connect with other students who share my passion,” Reimers said. “I have gained an appreciation for those who are less fortunate. I also have gained an understanding about issues that I was previously not privy to. I am learning so much about the issues that I care about, but even more than that, I am learning how to work with others to achieve social change.”

CMU’s Alternative Break program is ranked fourth nationally for the number of students participating in the trips. The program also has been ranked among the top five in the nation by Break Away, a national nonprofit organization that supports the development of university alternative break programs.

Troy senior Scott Stewart will volunteer for Campus Pride participating in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer youth visibility efforts. This will be Stewart’s third Alternative Break experience.

“The volunteer experience that is gained through an Alternative Break is one that is unmatched anywhere else,” Stewart said. “I truly hope that students come back with a passion to help their communities and educate others about their experience.”

Alternative Break provides real-world experience to Stewart’s future goal of working in the nonprofit sector helping with human rights.

“It allows me to have a glimpse of what the nonprofit sector is like, along with the overallexperience of helping out an organization that does so much for a community,” Stewart said.

The Alternative Breaks program is offered through CMU’s Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center. Students can pick a service experience dedicated to various social issues, including children’s health care, historical preservation, HIV/AIDS and education.

Sites for the 2014 Alternative Spring Breaks include:

– Charlotte, N.C., Campus Pride LGBTQ

– Jonesboro, Ark., Food Bank Rural Poverty

– Surray, Va., Chippokes State Park State Parks Preservation

– Kissimmee, Fla., Giving Kids the World Village Uplifting Families and Children

– Pittsburgh Rebuilding Together Urban Renewal

– Charleston, S.C., Carolina Youth Development Center Youth Advocacy

– Baltimore Greater Homewood Community Corporation Adult Education

– Asheville, N.C., YMCA of Western North Carolina Access to Sports and Recreation

– Selma, Ala., The Freedom Foundation Civil Rights

– Immokalee, Fla., Highlands Elementary School Diversity

– Omaha, Neb., Completely KIDS Education

– St. Louis Food Outreach Health Promotions

– Atlanta Open Hand / Jerusalem House HIV/AIDS.