By Hannah Fierle, Staff Writer
Fall break is a great opportunity to take a trip somewhere new or relax at home for the weekend. But this year, Miami is striving to make fall break a time to give back to the community.
The student organization Break Out of Miami (BOOM) is offering a weekend trip to Cincinnati to volunteer with the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition. Working alongside the Cincinnati Urban Experience, students will provide service that is most needed in the community, including spending time at a soup kitchen.
"As a Miami alum, I can really see the value of this type of experience in contrast to life in Oxford," said Dr. Mark Mussman, director of Education for the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition.
The organization has previously offered service-oriented spring break programs but has expanded to include trips during fall break and winter term.
This year for winter break, BOOM is offering a trip partnered with Serve Beyond Cincinnati. The program will travel to Uganda and help build athletic courts and fields with the organization, Courts For Kids. Over spring break, BOOM will travel to Oklahoma and work with the Miami tribe, from which the university gets its namesake.
"Alternative break programs can really help broaden the perspective," said Robert Abowitz, associate director of Residence Life. "Getting out of your comfort zone and going somewhere new can transform experiences, from a local, to a national, to an international level."
Past trips include planting for local parks and building local oyster habitats in Charleston, S.C. The organization has volunteered in New Orleans and Memphis.
"Becoming involved with these trips has been a really character-building experience," said Patrick Shanahan, a junior in the organization. "You meet a lot of like-minded people who are concerned about putting themselves out in the community to improve things."
"Aside from the service aspect, these trips are a great way to explore a new place," said Julie Donna, President of BOOM. "In Charleston, we organized a beach clean up and then enjoyed an afternoon at the beach."
Donna attended the national conference for BOOM's parent organization, Break Away, over the summer. The conference was held at the Grand Canyon where the volunteers also worked with Wildland Fire Management programs.
After the conference, Donna was inspired to expand the offerings at Miami and reinforce the educational aspect of the program. As a result, BOOM has implanted lectures and experiences prior to the trips to properly prepare and inform students about the service they will be performing.
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"An experience isn't nearly as impactful if you don't know why it's important or the implications of the work you're doing," said Donna.
The Cincinnati trip will focus on homelessness awareness, including volunteering with Shanty City, a part of the Habitat for Humanity program.
Donna, a senior, hopes to have laid a foundation for the program to expand.
"In the future, we hope to be able to offer multiple trips for each break," said Donna. "I hope to establish long-term partnerships with some of the service organizations and be able to go back each year."