Group of Penn State students and chaperones pose in a lofty patio area overlooking Montreal

Alternative Spring Break helps students learn about themselves and the world around them, through service

Travel abroad provides students with valuable lessons, add volunteering to help those in need, and the lessons can be life-changing.

In spring 2018, a group of Penn State Mont Alto students traveled to Montreal, Canada, for the campus’ first Alternative Spring Break Trip. It was a great success.

“ASB gives students the chance to make an impact on the lives of others and learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing different communities. Traveling to Montreal provides our students with an international urban experience, which is in great contrast to the day-to-day life in Mont Alto,” said Curtis Hoover, Penn State Mont Alto director of student affairs.

In spring 2019, the Mont Alto Campus collaborated with Penn State Hazelton and again took students to Montreal. Five chaperones and 25 students―16 from Mont Alto and 9 from Hazelton―spent eight hours each day, Monday through Thursday, completing a wide range of assistance at seven service sites. Some included sorting and packing canned goods for distribution at Moisson Montreal, a large food bank; peeling and chopping vegetables at People’s Potato, a vegan soup kitchen; and spring cleaning at Chez Nous de Mercier, a senior community center.

“We went to many different places and experienced many different people…and even though we were helping others, we benefited from it too. There are so many people who suffer from poverty, and I was challenged by my urge to help everyone but not being able to. It hurt my heart wanting to do more, but I couldn’t. However, I’m glad I was part of this experience and was able to help in whatever way I could,” said Penn State Hazelton student Alessandra Banta.

Monday through Thursday evenings after dinner, the students and chaperones gathered in a circle to reflect on their experiences.

Following the trip, the students completed a survey wherein 100% said they were glad they attended, and 87% said they strongly agree that ASB Montreal had an impact on how they view service.

“Although it was physically and mentally exhausting, I am glad I was able to give up my time and help those in need,” said Mont Alto student Santiago Morillo.

After their trip, the students shared their “Lessons Learned” during a campus presentation.

In spring 2020, Penn State Mont Alto will again collaborate with Hazelton and continue to provide students the opportunity to learn about themselves, others, and the world around them through service not only in Montreal, but also in Pittsburgh.

“I had an amazing spring break in Montreal. I am going to do this next year and look to have an even better time. I thank everyone who helped put this together and allowed the students of Mont Alto and Hazleton to make an impact on Montreal and the people who reside there,” said Mont Alto student Chris Woods.