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December 18, 2018

SVSU students to spend winter break learning through service

Saginaw Valley State University students often defy stereotypes. At the end of the fall semester, may college students return home to sleep in, binge watch Netflix and generally unwind. But for Alina Devoogd, Chantel Poquette and nearly 100 SVSU students, they are dedicating their winter break from school to volunteer at locations across the country, helping a number of organizations in need.

Alternative Breaks is a student-led program organized through SVSU's Student Life Center. The program offers college students an "alternative" to the traditional university break to learn about different social issues across the U.S.

Poquette departed for Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday, Dec. 16 to a crisis center called The Nest. The Nest offers a safe place for education, healing, counseling, and support to women, children and families in crisis. The social work major from Holly says she is passionate about her topic because it relates to her personal life.

“I want to be able to give back to people,” she said. “I am going into a career that focuses on serving others and this trip not only helps me achieve my own goals but to help others.”

Devoogd, a political science and Spanish double major from Algonac, and her Alternative Breaks team are focused on the topic of incarcerated youth. The SVSU students traveled to Colombia, South Carolina to work with youth in the juvenile justice system. There, they are engaging with the youth in positive ways, as well as celebrate the holidays.

“I chose to do an alternative break trip because my life calling is to use my privileges to help someone who needs a hand,” she said. “Sometimes we all need someone to believe in us and help us.”

Alternative Break destinations and topics for SVSU students this December include:

  • Twelve students are volunteering at The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families in Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Twelve students traveled to Memphis to work alongside Serve 901 to focus on community development.
  • Eleven students headed to Asheville, North Carolina to work with Habitat for Humanity.
  • Three students are dedicating their time to health and wellness of the LGBTQ+ community at the Lifelong in Seattle.
  • Rural cultural sensitivity and animal rescue is the main focus for 12 students working at Visit Appalachia LLC in Harlan, Kentucky.
  • In Atlanta, 12 students will aid in resettling refugees into their communities with the International Rescue Committee.
  • Poverty and structural racism is what 12 students will focus on while in Washington, D.C. working at the Steinbruck Center.
  • Champion Athletes of the Ozarks is the organization 12 students are working with to help Individuals with special needs and disabilities in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Twelve students traveled to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice in Columbia, South Carolina to work with the incarcerated youth.

After returning from their trips, many of the SVSU students engage in volunteer service for a nonprofit organization in the Great Lakes Bay Region or their home communities devoted to a cause similar to what they experienced on their Alternative Break.

 For more information about the Alternative Breaks program at SVSU, visit