An Alternative for Break: Service

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Students are increasingly interested in spending time between quarters engaging with the community through service. Case in point: the Winter BreakAway to the Tacoma Rescue Mission.

In the Community

Check the CSL website for upcoming alternative break and other service opportunities.

On Jan. 26, students will participate in Pierce County's annual survey of people experiencing homelessness, called Everyone Counts: A Point in Time Survey.

Upcoming BreakAway trips are scheduled for March 18-24: one focused on education and immigration and another focused on business and the environment.

A summer BreakAway June 30 - July 6 will focus on the 2018 Special Olympics in Seattle.

During winter break, the Center for Service and Leadership (CSL) took a group of UW Tacoma students on a six-day service-immersion to the Tacoma Rescue Mission. This marked their third year partnering with the Rescue Mission to provide students with a winter “alternative break”: an alternative to the stereotyped view of break as a time for (excessive) fun in the sun.

Alternative breaks, according to the national Break Away organization, meet eight criteria: “strong direct service, an alcohol and drug-free policy, a commitment to diversity and social justice, orientation, education, training, reflection, and reorientation.”

Paul Prociv, the CSL’s civic engagement specialist, says these trips come down to one thing: students. “It's the unique power of students and community members coming together to create positive, personal and social change,” he said.

According to Frederick Anex-Schnauss (who prefers gender-neutral pronouns), coordinator of the Rescue Mission alternative break, these trips are a unique opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience serving in their own backyard. “There's a lot to do in our community,” Anex-Schnauss said. “I think that students can benefit a lot from seeing what we may not see on an everyday basis.”

While this will be Anex-Schnauss’s first experience doing an alternative break, they are well-prepared to lead students in serving the local Tacoma area. Anex-Schnauss is both a business major, with a minor in corporate responsibility, and an experienced volunteer. Anex-Schnauss eagerly anticipates this new opportunity to help fellow students grow while engaging with their community. “I'm really excited to pull all of my experiences together, and to be in this immersive experience with the group of students,” they said. “I get to support student growth and to be part of this team that's learning who they are through this experience.”

UW Tacoma students at Tacoma Rescue Mission for an alternative break. In foreground, from left: Cris Wright, Frederick R. Anex-Schnauss, Jasmin Sanchez. Second row, from far left: Carly Dunn, Rebbeca Dickson, Kalei Kalanui, Paul Prociv (in cap), Kelly Galloway, Sophie Boguk, Merone RezeneAn alternative break is more than a service opportunity. It is a chance for students to change the way they view people in their communities. According to Prociv, as important as the service is students understanding the humanity of those served by institutions such as the Tacoma Rescue Mission. “They aren't just the person that you saw—or the person experiencing homelessness coming across campus—they’re a person first,” he said.

For Regina Harper, ‘17, a UW Tacoma graduate and past alternative break participant, serving at the Tacoma Rescue Mission gave her not only reassurance in her career choice to become a social worker, but also a new way to view those in her own community who are experiencing homelessness. “The project was a life changing event for me which changed my perspective on how to engage, not just with homeless individuals but with people in general,” Harper wrote in a reflection on her service to the Tacoma Rescue Mission.

At night, students slept in the conference room of the Tacoma Rescue Mission, so as not to take up space needed to serve the mission’s clients. But during the day, they spent time setting up events, serving meals and doing all they could to assist employees in serving the Mission’s diverse community.

Something else that CSL is doing with alternative breaks: emphasizing the local community connection. The CSL’s emphasis on projects in the greater Tacoma area is providing UW Tacoma students with the means to effect real change in their community, which can end up changing their own lives. Thanks to alternative break opportunities, students don’t need to travel far to get a change in perspective. “We have to start and do the work here first,” Prociv said. “We don't need to travel across the country necessarily in order to realize the humanity that hasn't got the attention it deserves.”

Written by: 
Danni Derrickson / January 25, 2018
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or