Student-led Alternative Spring Break trips emphasize learning, making new connections, and service

9 May 2022

Each year, the CCCE sponsors students to participate in critical service-learning trips through our Alternative Spring Break program. These student-led trips have been a favorite break option for their emphasis on learning, making new connections, and service. The CCCE has partnered with two host sites for many years: Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity in Waterloo, IA and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (ELC) in Finland, MN. Our longstanding partnerships with both locations have resulted in countless hours of student service and immeasurable impact on our students and community partners. 

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was finally able to run again this Spring. While offices around campus have faced difficulty with student engagement as we moved into a more open stage of the pandemic, we had an impressive number of applicants to each trip and were able to select 18 students to participates. Sophie Baggett ‘23 and Helen Desta ‘23 led the Wolf Ridge ELC trip while Adi Satish ‘23 and Acacia Coker ‘24 led the Habitat for Humanity trip. Our four leaders served as liaisons to our community partners, planned meaning-making discussions and meals, and helped the groups stay healthy in the context of COVID-19 .

The students who traveled to Waterloo, IA worked with Habitat for Humanity staff to finish siding, roofing and painting several houses in all sorts of exciting spring weather. One student remarked that they felt the trip matched up with their understanding of how change happens in the world: everyone doing their part can add up to a big impact. They were also able to attend a dedication ceremony for one of Habitat for Humanity’s recently completed houses, check out Waterloo’s recreation offerings, and make meals together. 

Up north in Finland, MN, students attending the Wolf Ridge ELC trip assisted staff in preparing the on-site organic farm for the growing season. Despite nearly a foot of snowfall during their stay, the Carleton crew was able to move ice houses off of the lake, sow and harvest microgreens for the cafeteria, process squash from the previous season, and learn about organic farming and food systems in northern Minnesota. Attendees also thought about the educational component of Wolf Ridge ELC, and how the elementary students, Masters degree candidates and others involved with their program carry forward the lessons learned at Wolf Ridge.

Alternative Spring Break is made possible by the Julianne Williams ‘94 Memorial Fund. Established to honor Julie’s life and beliefs, this endowed fund encourages current students to conduct projects and activities which forward Julie’s commitment to community service and social justice. We are grateful to Julie’s family for this gift. We would also like to thank the staff at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center and Habitat for Humanity for hosting our students over the years and providing excellent experiences.