Alternative Winter Break Trips Focus on Complex Social Issues


Video by Salome Lepez Da Silva Duarte ’19

Bowdoin’s Alternative Winter Break program, launched five years ago, offers students a chance spend a week in January doing intensive, meaningful work.

Each year, the McKeen Center oversees two AWB trips. Both are always planned and led by student volunteers who want to focus deeply on a specific social issue in Maine, such as homelessness or immigrant education.

This year, two trips took place: Reproductive Justice, led by Penelope Lusk ’17 and Harriet Fisher ’17, and Immigrants & Refugees, led by Thanh Tran ’19 and Ellen Pham ’18.

Throughout the fall semester, the trip leaders explore their topic with their groups through a series of seminars and talks. After this preparation, the trips culminate in a week during January when the students visit and volunteer at local agencies.

In the evening, living together on campus, the students debrief on what they’ve learned during the day, discussing such things as the political and social roles of the organizations and the obstacles they face.

“We want the trips to introduce students to communities and issues they may not see much on campus, and to help them realize there are things they could be doing now to help address those issues and support those communities,” said Andrew Lardie, the McKeen Center’s associate director for service and leadership. “Alternative Winter Break is a complement to what students are achieving and learning about in the classroom…and contributes to the student’s evolving sense of their own goals beyond Bowdoin.”

In her video, Salome Lepez Da Silva Duarte ’19 spends a day with the Reproductive Justice group. In the morning, she follows the group as it meets with the Doula Project, an agency that supports pregnant women. In the afternoon, the students visit Planned Parenthood Portland, where they help the administration and learn more about the organization.

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