Palo Alto’s Alternative Spring Break gives back

By Jocelyn Sandoval
Pulse Staff Reporter

New Orleans Alternative Spring Break students planting cypress trees. Photo by Denise Barkis Richter, Ph.D.

If you ever find yourself searching for purpose on those long breaks away from school, Palo Alto College offers its students a chance to travel for free while becoming more active and engaged citizens.

The Alternative Break program is offered free of cost to PAC students during winter and spring breaks. Students get to travel and experience new things while giving back to people who need it most through engaging community service activities.

Hunter Bates, coordinator of Student Success, accompanied students to New Orleans over Spring Break.

“I reconnected with understanding how service can be good for the soul,” said Bates.

In past years, students have gone to Los Angeles, New Orleans and Boston to focus on the issues of homelessness, environmental education, health and wellness. During the week-long trip, students can expect to do anywhere between 13 to 30 hours of community service.

Outside of their service, the participants get to explore the city and gain knowledge through some planned or improvised cultural experiences. On the trip, participants will be able to network with other young adults from colleges all over the country who are also on service-learning trips.

Camp Restore, where the New Orleans participants lodge, is an organization that offers communal housing for service-learning students. This allows for more social interaction within groups and opens students’ eyes to the opportunities away from home.

Students document their experiences, both digitally and on paper, which they share with the program organizers, Carlos Cruz, Erica Munoz and Hunter Bates, and each other to help improve future programs.

In order to participate, you must be a currently enrolled student at PAC, fill out an application that every student receives through an email on their Alamo Colleges’ account, and go through an interview. Students who make it in are expected to attend two pre-trip meetings and participate in a pre-trip service activity.

Extra-curricular service opportunities like this strengthen resumes for universities and job applications. Universities love students who care about the community they are a part of and who immerse themselves into a whole new city to serve those in need.

Andy Bautista, who was a Biology major before the New Orleans trip, decided his calling was actually forestry after he spent an afternoon working with a retired LSU professor planting cypress trees.

“I found a job where I can work outside and see so much land,” said Bautista.

Samantha Salas, a Sociology student who had the opportunity to attend the Los Angeles spring break trip, had a similar experience. Salas solidified her decision to pursue a career in social work.

 “I have always had a heart for helping… I was recommending this trip to all of my friends, and I think everyone should take advantage of it,” said Salas.

The next Alternative Break trip will be during the winter break in the Fall 2019 semester. The official destination is still undecided. Palo Alto is looking to expand its Alternative Break program. For the Spring 2020 semester, they hope to add a third trip during Spring Break to a destination chosen by PAC students and faculty in addition to New Orleans and L.A. trips.

Make sure to look out for the Alternative Break application in your ACES email and AlamoSYNC this upcoming fall, or contact Hunter Bates at for more information.

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