|Penn Alternative Breaks (PAB) is one of Civic House's signature student-run programs that is led by Co-Directors Maddie Leonard and Sarah Murray and advised, overseen, and coordinated by Civic House's newest Associate Director, Ashley Johnson. Ashley, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, works with PAB on engaging their board, connecting with community partners, and ensuring that PAB accomplishes their goals collaboratively. Additionally, Ashley serves as the liaison between PAB and Penn's Office of Student Affairs, overseeing the budget and outreach efforts. As advisor, Ashley is focused on increasing the educational potential of PAB surrounding social justice issues, expanding PAB's alignment with Civic House's Social Justice Framework, and increasing how accessible PAB is to students who have been historically underrepresented at Penn.|
PAB, formerly known as Alternate Spring Break, recently adopted a name change to be more inclusive of their expanding winter break trips. The program, which has been undergoing extensive changes during the past few semesters, uses a three-pronged approach of education, service, and reflection to provide meaningful service experiences and mutually-beneficial relationships with its partners in alignment with Civic House's Social Justice Framework. The student-led organization has been working closely with multiple social justice-oriented organizations to ensure that they are working with, rather than for, their partners. To this end, PAB's board is expanding their education and reflection approaches by creating a platform for Penn students to learn about their identities and how their identities inform their worldviews.
One way PAB is hoping to build a culture of responsible and socially concious service is by increasing the number of mandatory education events a participant must attend before being eligible for a service trip from one to three. Under the model of active citizenship, PAB will begin implementing post-trip projects that will ensure continual engagement and impact beyond the duration of the one week service. Additionally, PAB has begun developing spaces for participants to learn about different social issues and how to incorporate various facilitation styles into their trip models, both before and after the trips. These key changes should result in a strengthed dedication to education, student leadership, and, most imporatntly, PAB's capacity to support the diverse group of community partners they serve during and after the service break experiences.
Another pivotal change occurring within the structure of PAB is an effort to increase the the representation of underrepresented groups on service trips and ensure that they are creating pathways for all people, regardless of prior knowledge and experience, to engage in service learning. Through a drastic expansion of financial aid packages that took effect in fall 2017, PAB begins to chip away at an obvious barrier that many first generation, low income students are presented with when considering the cost of trips.
Expanding upon their alignment with Civic House's Social Justice Framework, PAB has worked to build relationships with partner organizations staffed with people connected to the issues they work to alleviate and who work directly with those affected. As an organization that holds both resources and power, Civic House seeks to support those directly affected by social issues. Currently, PAB manages two winter break trips and seven spring break trips where students can engage in active citizenship and learning. This winter, PAB will work with Dismas House in Nashville on the reintegration of formerly incarcerated people into society through community housing and support models. Their second winter trip is with The Pilgrimage, a Washington, DC-based service-learning hostel that primarily works with issues of food insecurity. In the spring, PAB will partner with the Workers' Defense Project (migrant worker's rights and reform), Housing Assistance (housing equity), Healthy Columbia (community health initiatives), Asheville Greenworks' (urban agriculture and sustainability projects), City Meals on Wheels in New York City (food insecurity), Appalachia Service Project (rural poverty alleviation efforts) and a collaboration with the Penn Sustainability Office's efforts to promote cleaner energy and divestment from fossil fuel and fracking. Opportunities are plentiful within PAB, but they are still seeking to expand their opportunities for both alumni and Penn students to get involved.
Penn students can get involved by applying for PAB trips. PAB hopes to begin building a community beyond its break trips wherein people can reflect on their experiences and come together to talk about their work and ideas relating to social justice. Additionally, students interested in PAB are encouraged to look into the abundance of other service and civic engagement opportunities available through Civic House. PAB hopes to build more connections with Penn alumni who can share their experiences with PAB, recommend students for trips, and provide relationships and mentoring to students interested in pursuing social justice-related careers post-graduation. Interested alumni can contact PAB's Outreach Coordinator, Thomas Calder, at his email email@example.com.