For Alzebeth Roman, Alternative Service Breaks have been a ‘top-five’ collegiate experience
The number of Poole College students participating in NC State’s Alternative Service Break (ASB) trip program nearly doubled in the 2013-14 academic year, from 12 to 21, out of about 200 trip spots available for undergraduate and graduate students each year.
Administered through NC State’s Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service (CSLEPS) these unique service-learning experiences enable NC State students to provide direct service to a community while being immersed in the culture and customs of that community through cultural, educational, recreational and reflective activities.
Alzebeth Roman, a Poole College senior majoring in accounting, participated in the Dominican Republic trip during winter break in 2013, working with children in Monte Cristi on English education and literacy through the Outreach 360 program’s learning center for children living in disadvantaged communities. It was her third ASB trip. Roman previously participated in the New Orleans ASB trip in spring 2013, which focused on hunger, homelessness and education, and the New Mexico trip in spring 2012, where her team worked in a foster home, food bank and community center, focusing on education and issues faced by the Native American population of the area.
“ASB has been among the top five experiences I've had at NC State,” Roman said. “Through ASB I've learned to challenge the way I think about people, cultures and even my own experiences. We learn that everything we see and experience is viewed through our own personal lens which can carry bias and prejudice, so the role of ASB is not only to serve our community but to grow our lens and gain new perspectives,” she said.
“There's also a large component of ‘unpacking privilege’ which allows students to self-reflect on what unearned privileges they carry or don't carry,” Roman said. The ‘unpacking’ occurs during daily reflection and discussion sessions facilitated by the team leaders.
Roman became involved in CSLEPS’s many opportunities during her freshman year at NC State after learning about the ASB trips from her resident advisor. She became a student volunteer in the office, working with Adam Culley, assistant director who focuses on the ASB trips, and learned about other leadership development opportunities, including the LeaderShape Institute. She is an alumn of the 2013 LeaderShape Institute program.
Her advice for students considering an ASB experience: “Do it and don't be afraid of the cost, the place, or the people,” Roman said, noting that she able to cover the trip costs through financial support through the CSLEPS office or other NC State resources and personal fundraising. She also encourages students who have completed one ASB trip to consider leading a future trip.
“Not only does it help with some of the cost of the program, but it teaches students how to facilitate challenging conversations and develops critical leadership skills such as organization, time management, and budgeting, since the student team leaders are responsible for almost all of the logistics of the program,” Roman said.
Expand your horizons
With nearly 20 ASB U.S. and international trip options, Roman encourages students to “choose a program you're passionate about, but don't limit yourself to just one option. I had never worked with education before I applied for the trips and I fell in love with it. Don't be deterred from applying to an engineering-type or environmental-type program just because you have a certain major. These experiences are supposed to expand your horizons and challenge you in new ways.”
About the ‘unpacking’ that Roman mentioned. She’s been doing a good bit of that in summer 2014, as a student in the European Union Summer through the IES Abroad program, fulfilling requirements for her minor in political science. Readers can follow that experience at her blog, “Oh, the places you’ll go.”
In addition to her service and global learning experiences, Roman’s engagement with campus life includes roles as administrative coordinator for Wolf Village Apartments, part of the University Housing system; president of the Rho Chapter of Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc.; vice president of administration for the National Residence Hall Honorary; co-founder of the Poole Council in Poole College, and co-founder of the American Sign Language Club. She also is a University Scholar.
Roman provided her comments in an email interview for this story.