BreakAway, one of Denison’s four winter break alternatives, enabled 78 students to serve in various settings all over the United States. The BreakAway program is based on the idea of an Active Citizen Continuum, transforming students from unconcerned spectators, at one end of the continuum, into active citizens who value their community highly, at the other end.
The BreakAway program is student-run and headed by trip leaders selected the previous semester. They put much effort into planning and coordinating these trips, according to Denison Community Association (DCA) advisor Susie Kalinoski: “The leaders begin planning the summer before they return to campus. They are responsible for finding housing and setting up their volunteer sites.”
Training continues in the fall to educate leaders in the BreakAway philosophy, which helps “participants… become more educated and experienced in all sides of a social issue. Upon return, they will be empowered to make more informed decisions and take meaningful action that supports a greater good. They will become contributing members of society and will weigh in on issues that impact their communities.”
A focus on service and perspective continues throughout the experience as participants discuss their topic weekly, meet to reflect daily during the trip, and undergo a reorientation when they return to campus to bring their new perspective on service into the local community.
The BreakAway movement has been present on Denison’s campus since 1991, when it was introduced by former DCA advisor Irene Kennedy. Only one trip went initially, but that increased to three trips in 2009 and six since 2010. This year two groups went to Atlanta, Ga. under the leadership of Raquel Fuentes ‘14 and Chelsea Flowers ‘13, and focused on immigration and urban youth. Hannah Frank ‘13 and Kristine Mallinson ‘15 led students to Selma, Ala. to learn about economic justice and civil rights. Students learned about education on trips to East St. Louis, Ill. with Elizabeth Shoby ‘13 and Lisa Footes ‘14, and to Chicago, Ill. with Alicia Blake ‘13 and Brittane Maddox ‘14. A trip to Hubert, N.C. led by Adam Severs ‘13 and Kai Kyles ‘15 focused on environmental action. Students worked in the Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary, as well as in homeless shelters, schools, and food pantries.
The BreakAway program is a committee of the DCA, and can be found through the DCA website, OrgSync, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kalinoski summarized the influence of BreakAway in this way: “[It] gives many students the opportunity to explore some of the social issues of our time… it fits with the mission of the college to create active citizens in a democratic society.”