Officially, Alternative Spring Break is a student-run community service organization whose mission is to promote critical thinking, social action, and continued community involvement by combining education, reflection, and direct service on the local, regional, national, and international levels. Unofficially, Alternative Spring Break is an adventure where strangers are asked to transcend personal boundaries, state lines, and comfort zones as they travel to a new city where they will directly serve that community. This experience allows students to be immersed in environments that enable them to interact with diverse communities and understand complex social issues.
“I learned how to empower people and develop meaningful interactions, even with individuals that navigate life differently than me. At Challenge Enterprises, I noticed there is a focus on the quality of life over meeting basic needs,” observed Riddhi Singhania, a Junior in Human Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University.
Following a hiatus during the pandemic, Vanderbilt University’s Alternative Spring Break has returned to Green Cove Springs and Orange Park for a week of collaboration with Challenge Enterprises. Beautiful Soul, the subgroup of Alternative Spring Break working with Challenge Enterprises, aims to build strong personal relationships and connections with people of all abilities through various activities and dinners with community members.
“I have realized that I was able to learn a lot through the various activities such as advocacy sessions where we take a specific aspect of well-being and focus our discussion on it. I was able to not only add my perspective to these sessions but also learn from everyone around me regarding how everyone approaches managing their well-being. I believe that this experience with Challenge Enterprises has allowed me to grow personally while also providing me insight into effective communication. interaction, and engagement,” reported Rohan Nigam, a junior in Neuroscience and Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University.
Inclusion, advocacy, integrity, and empowerment are the core values that drive the mission at Challenge Enterprises. Developing partnerships and collaboration with organizations like Vanderbilt University gives Challenge Enterprises access to expanding opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The Alternative Spring Break alliance between students and individuals with a disability encourages both parties to engage with each other at the human level, discovering their impact on their community, their determination to achieve goals, and the talents and abilities that make them uniquely valuable as contributing members of society. The obstacles of stereotypes and assumptions give way as relationships and connections formed during the program encourage participants to discover the impact of inclusion on social issues and the unique value of all members of society.
Steve Udotong a Junior in Human Organizational Development at Vanderbilt University shared, “I wanted to use my talents to provide community service to a nonprofit. As I participated in activities that sometimes allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone, I found that I have a talent for engaging with others and that individuals with disabilities are and want to be seen as people…. people just like us!”