Students, faculty and staff interested in making their weekends and school breaks a little bit more meaningful are encouraged to attend a BreakAway information session Oct. 15 in the Center for Service and Leadership located in MAT 107.
The Center offers various alternative break service opportunities throughout the school year. Past opportunities have included going to help restore a home with Habitat for Humanity in California, helping out with the Special Olympics in Seattle and serving meals and sorting clothing donations at the Tacoma Rescue Mission. Typically, these opportunities take place during UW Tacoma’s winter, spring and summer breaks, but this year the Center’s BreakAway Coordinator, Frederick Anex-Schnauss, is thinking of switching it up.
“We were thinking of doing service over three days or a weekend this next time,” Anex-Schnauss said. “One of my goals is envisioning of how [BreakAway] can be adapted to best fit students.”
Adapting the program with a new, more flexible time frame could allow those available to work for a only few days to still take part in the event. Anex- Schnauss hopes to gain feedback and engagement from potential participants on how the program can work for them.
“This change as well as feedback could be meaningful to how we shape the future of this program,” Anex- Schnauss said.
What will not change is the structure and purpose of BreakAway. There will still be pretraining for participants to prepare for their service and get to know their fellow participants. Healthy group dynamics are a large part of the program so that participants can effectively work together and know the organizations and communities they are serving, as well be able to reflect on their experiences with one another in an open and safe space.
Alumna Cynthia Mora Olmedo has been a participant in two BreakAway trips. The first was a 2016 summer BreakAway at Tacoma Rescue Mission. On the trip, participants assisted staff and those utilizing TRM by doing tasks like cleaning and cooking. This was while participants stayed in the transitional housing that TRM offers to community members seeking shelter. The second BreakAway was with the friends of Buford Park in Oregon during Spring 2018. On this trip, participants worked on restoration projects like helping to maintain a nursery and removing barbed wire fencing that was supporting the growth of invasive species and were unintentionally catching animals in it. On both trips Olmedo was able to connect with and bond with not only the local community, but with her own peers as well.
“We did a lot of connecting and bonding,” said Olmedo. We were asked to reflect each day by our trip leaders. We reflected on the success of our day and had reflection questions oriented around specific topics related to that day. For example, one day we would have questions about the ecosystem of the river and on a different occasion we would have questions about the cafeteria at the Tacoma Rescue Mission. I really appreciated that we had that reflection time because our actions can become mindless if we let them. We were able to talk about what our actions would look like in years to come and the complexity of some of the situations that cannot be solved in one day.”
The reflection period helped Olmedo to realize some the differences that exists amongst individuals, as well as the humanity that we all share.
“Our connections may be surface level at first, but with the nature of the program we had the chance to share what we may have not be able to with others that are close to us,” said Olmedo. I was able to open up about some of my own experiences and found out that I was not alone. We were able to experience humanity in a way where we realized that our shared experiences may be things that we don’t talk about normally.”
This program is meant to challenge participant perceptions and get them out of their comfort zones so that they can grow as individuals through engaging experiences.
Alumna Berkan Korglu participated in a BreakAway trip during spring of 2018 where he volunteered at the Tacoma Rescue Mission, helping to serve the TRM staff and homeless community in a similar way to Olmedo. He credits this trip with providing him with new perspectives, which helped to change how he viewed and understood certain aspects of the world around him.
“I saw America for what it is,” said Korglu. “I as a Muslim Turkish First Generation student went into a Christian organization to help and support their cause. The growth me and all of my friends who participated in the Spring Breakaway experienced was tremendous. The conversations we had with those people who came to seek food and shelter from the organization was life changing, eye opening and shattered many biases.”
Both Korglu and Olmedo have walked away with lasting memories.
For Korglu the people that he met have stayed fresh in his mind and he has tried to maintain some of the connection that he made during his BreakAway.
“I still remember many of those we talked to,” said Korgul. “It’s as if their faces and stories are going right in front of my eyes now. I think that’s super powerful. We had great conversations with not only those who we were there to assist, but also with the staff. Their executive director at the time, Mike, spent a great amount of time with us and we really connected with him. Even after my time there, we still keep in touch.”
For Olmedo, she feels more empowered and open and has been better able to recognize that same potential in all of us.
“I was lucky enough to experience two BreakAways,” said Olmedo. What unified those two experiences was that no matter what the cause or topic was, there was importance that lied in being motivated, open-minded and making an effort. We have power as people. We can create groups and find support for and from each other. By meeting new people who are trying to stay focused and reach a common goal, I gained social skills that continue to help me today. I’m generally a more open person who is less scared about socializing. I’m less worried about judgment and more open to sharing my own experiences and hearing the experiences of others.”
Anex-Schnauss is currently working on reaching out to potential sites and is looking to fill leadership roles for future BreakAway events.
This article was incorrectly sourced to Leticia Bennett. The author of this article is Christean Jenkins.