Members of the Bowdoin community recently gathered in the Cram Alumni Barn to celebrate the conclusion of the Alternative Winter Break program and to hear from student participants about their experiences.
Taking place in January, before students are busy with classes, Bowdoin’s Alternative Winter Break program gives students the chance to learn about and get involved with a local issue. This year’s two winter break trips chose to focus on women’s reproductive rights and Maine’s immigrants and refugees.
Two student leaders for each trip collaborate in the months leading up to January to plan the trips, work out logistics, select student participants, oversee pre-trip educational seminars, and finally, to lead the week-long programs.
This year, Penelope Lusk ’17 and Harriet Fisher ’17 led Reproductive Justice in Portland, Maine, learning from organizations that support reproductive rights, as well as sexual health organizations, local police, politicians, and groups helping survivors of trafficking and assault.
Ellen Pham ’18 and Thanh Tran ’19 led Immigrant & Refugee Education in Portland, Maine, introducing students to Portland’s immigrant and refugee community. Volunteers worked with first-generation American students at a Portland middle school and with a college aspirations program tailored towards English Language Learning students.
According to the McKeen Center, which supports both the Alternative Winter Break and Alternative Spring Break programs, the trips “provide a unique opportunity for students to participate in an intensive public service experience while increasing their understanding of significant social and environmental problems.”
The Cram Barn celebration evening consisted of a dinner, short speeches by members of the two trips, and more intimate discussions in smaller groups.
In case you missed it: Salome La Pez Duarte ’19 made this AWB video:
Andrew Lardie, the McKeen Center’s associate director of service and leadership, kicked the event off, thanking everyone in attendance for their contributions to AWB. He noted how much time and effort go into making the program possible, especially noting the participation of the thirteen agencies in midcoast Maine who collaborated this January with Bowdoin’s students.
Hugh Cipparone ’19, who was part of the Immigrant and Refugee Education trip, provided an insider’s perspective. “On the whole we left Portland only a little healthier than we entered it,” he said. “But Portland’s immigrant and refugee community did gain, however, seven committed allies.”
Other participants also expressed the importance of forging allies and the need to continue confronting issues as complex as immigration and reproductive rights.
Caroline Kranefuss ’20, another participant on the Immigrant and Refugee Education program, seconded Cipparone’s comments. “The connections I was able to make during this week are too numerous for me to be able to tell them all,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Reproductive Justice trip, which traveled from Augusta, Maine, to Washington DC to march in the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, Becky Berman ’20 said, “It’s not just about the services that these organizations provide but the sensitivity and humanity that they show as well.”