VISION preps for Alternative Spring Break

While some Eagles will migrate to warmer temperatures and take restful vacations next week, others will be participating in the several Alternative Spring Break programs offered through Eastern Michigan University’s Volunteers Incorporating Service into our Neighborhoods volunteer center.

Eleven students from EMU’s Best Buddies program will go on an alternative Spring Break in Philadelphia, PA to volunteer at various organizations related to youth and family development.

Best Buddies is a volunteer-oriented, international non-profit organization whose mission is to foster strong friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for intellectually or developmentally disabled persons.

EMU’s Best Buddies program works together with the university’s VISION Volunteer Center to help
EMU students build meaningful relationships with disabled community-members ages 18 and older. These relationships are built to last a lifetime, and to benefit both the student volunteers and their buddies.

The eleven student volunteers and their buddies are heading to Philadelphia next week to participate in community service and prove that disabled people can be the givers of service, not just the receivers, according to an EMU Best Buddies press release.

“The overall goals of EMU’s alternative breaks program are to provide direct community service, but also to learn more about a social justice issue, and to develop as an active citizen,” Megan Hoorn,
College Buddy Director and one of the site leaders for the Philadelphia trip, said.

She is hoping to gain more experience working with youth and family development issues through the volunteer work the group has lined up in Philadelphia.

“I am really hoping to learn more about this issue of youth and family development simply because it is so broad,” Hoorn said. “I also hope that the service we are doing makes an important impact on those that we are serving.”

She said the trip to Philadelphia is the second EMU Best Buddies ASB trip, and Eastern is only the second school in the nation to go on this type of service excursion.

EMU student Gina Derderian is heading with a VISION group to West Virginia next week, where they will volunteer at the South Appalachian Labor School.

“The labor school offers members of the community a place where they can be trained in technical trades while working toward getting their GEDs,” Derderian said. “We plan to work closely with community by helping with the demolition [and] rebuilding of homes in the surrounding area, as well as working with an after school program.”

Derderian is excited to work with SALS because it is an organization with strong ties to its community.

“[I] feel that immersing yourself in a community the way you do during an alternative break is an opportunity to really get to know the people there much more deeply than surface level interaction,” she said.

Student Coordinator of Alternative Breaks at EMU Alex Weberman echoed the importance of community involvement, stating that one of the goals of the alternative breaks is to educate and change the volunteer.

Weberman will be heading to Haiti at the beginning of May for EMU’s first international alternative break.

“Every volunteer experience is an opportunity to learn about the people and the places where you will be spending your time,” Derderian said. “I have faith that our group will also learn much about ourselves through working with others of many differing experiences and backgrounds.”

Students interested in the alternative break program can find information about upcoming alternative weekends and other extended break programs on EMU’s VISION webpage,

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