The 123’s of ABCS

My team with our completed ramp and Ms. Mays πŸ™‚

I’ve finally stopped sobbing enough to compose real thoughts about the past week I had. Even as I sit here trying to write this…oops, I started crying again… okay, deep breaths and here we go.

This past week I represented the College of Saint Rose as a Site Leader at this years ABCS in Spartansburg,SC. I attended this conference last year as a participant in Washington DC. I loved it so much, I figured I’d apply as a site leader for this year. I found out I got the position in May and became one out of ten college students chosen out of 100 or so to become a site leader. I have to say, this has been one of the best experiences of my entire life. I learned so much and met the most incredible people the world has to offer.

Break Away
Break Away is a non-profit organization that specializes in Alternative Breaks and Active Citizens by partnering with chapter colleges across the country. This started about 20 years ago. It is a small organization ran out of Atlanta, GA. There is about 5 people on staff. Director Jill, Program Directors Katy and Shannon, who are taking over for the fantastic lady Sam, CPC Keith, and AmeriCorps VISTA Tia. To learn more about Break Away please visit alternativebreaks.org, search Break Away on facebook, or tweet to @activecitizenHQ #alternativebreak.

What are the ABCS?
ABCS or Alternative Break Citizenship School is a summer long session in 3 different areas of the country. This year they were held in Atlanta, GA, Houston, TX, and Spartansburg, SC. These sessions bring together students and staff members from across the country. I mean that literally too, there were people from California to Maine and everywhere between. (Where my Michigan mitteners at?)
The week long sessions use the “train the trainer” method of teaching. The participants on these AB trips are staff members, site leaders, or exec board members in their school’s alternative break program. This session helps programs better their already successful programs or help other schools build theirs from the ground up. The ABCS strives for these sessions to not only perfect programs but create active citizens. They do this by intergrating an social justice issue to work on and have direct service mixed in with a ton of informative workshops.

The issue
The issue we focused on this week was “Ensuring Independence for an Aging Population”. We worked on this issue by teaming up with an organization called Christmas in Action (learn more at Christmasinaction.org). This non-profit fixes the homes of local aging individuals who live below the poverty line and therefore could not afford to get the work done on their own. By doing these repairs, it ensures that these citizens can continue to live in their home’s of many many years. These projects help the home owners stay safe in them and have one less thing to worry about. This week my group, the Yellow Spotted Salamanders, worked on the lovely Ms. Mays home. (See photo at top) We built a wheelchair ramp at the back of her house because she soon will need to be in a wheelchair. We also did some roof work so she no longer has to worry about leaks.
When Ms. Mays opened her door and came out onto her ramp for the first time, it was an emotional moment for everyone. I will never forget the look on her face. I have connected with home owners before and heard their stories, but never to the extent I was connected to Ms. Mays, a former Brooklyner. Her home is also the first project I have ever seen completed by a team I was on. It will be one of my fondest memories. I am so proud of our team who worked in the pouring rain on their first day of service. All of the homes worked on this week were finished and all the home owners can now have a little sense of ease and remain independent.

The site leaders
I met 9 of the coolest people last week. We bonded so quickly and truly became good friends. We met every night and discussed how each of our day’s with our groups went but most of the time we laughed into the early hours of the morning. They made this experience so much more special. Especially my co, Devan. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner or a better group of people to spend my time with. REMEMBER, that I love you all.

Breakers are my people and breaking is my thing. I can not wait to get started on creating a new program at Saint Rose. I know with the dedication of students (shout out to Tara who went to ABCS in Atlanta this year), the told from Break Away, and the support of my Salamanders and site leaders, we can make something so cool on our campus too πŸ™‚

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” -Gandhi

What do you think?