College of Human Sciences students are among those from Iowa State who spent part of their winter break helping those in need in Memphis, Tennessee. Contributed photo.

Alternative breaks offer opportunity for service learning

A future teacher, dietitian, and event planner in the College of Human Sciences who have a passion for helping others are among 17 students from Iowa State University who spent part of their winter break assisting those in need.

“I love helping people,” said Kalley Hakes, a senior in dietetics. “We all need some help sometimes and if I am in a position where I am able to help those people that need it, I feel as though I have a responsibility to do so and it helps that I enjoy doing it.”

Hakes joined Bailey Hare, a senior in elementary education; and Hannah Walton, a senior in event management, in a group of students traveling to Memphis, Tennessee, from Jan. 2 to 7 to engage in service learning through the university’s Alternative Breaks program.

The experience was led by Mike Dixon, a graduate assistant in the School of Education who works with service programs for the Student Activities Center.

A good fit for their majors

The Iowa State students focused several of their Memphis service projects on helping children.

They worked with refugee youth on literacy skills through the Refugee Empowerment Program and engaged with youth through Agape, a faith-based nonprofit serving nearly 10,000 Memphis-area children. They helped to organize a warehouse so Agape can be better stewards of donations. They also organized some areas of the Target House, a long-term housing facility for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“This trip fits right in with my major,” said Hare, who aspires to become a teacher. “I'm going to school for elementary education and only have one semester left before student teaching.”

Hare, who participated in track and cross country while attending the Odebolt-Arthur and Battle Creek-Ida Grove Community School Districts, said her goal is to someday teach students in grades four through six, and coach high school track or cross country.

Diversity and social responsibility are key initiatives of the College of Human Sciences, which strives to expand human potential and improve people’s lives. Iowa State as a whole also aims to accelerate contributions to the social good, and improve the quality of life of others.

“I decided to go on this alternative break this semester because I love helping people and going on trips to do just that,” said Hakes, who aspires to become a registered dietitian. “This relates to my major of dietetics as I will be working with people and patients every day.”

This wasn’t the first service trip for Hakes. She’s previously taken four trips to a boys’ home in Jamaica where she helped to cook food for the week, and helped with repairs around the home.

A decade of service learning

The Alternative Breaks program at Iowa State began in 2008. For the past decade, teams of students have spent their spring and winter breaks traveling to other states to perform short-term projects for community agencies, and to learn about various social issues.

The practical, global, and leadership experiences provided by Alternative Breaks and other service learning projects contribute to the social good and improve the quality of life of others. They also help Iowa State students become more well-rounded citizens who are exceptionally prepared to lead in a global society and make a difference around the world.

The next Alternative Breaks trip during spring break will take Iowa State students to five locations across the United States.

Projects will include preparing and packing meals with Harvest Farm in Wellington, Colorado; completing trail revitalization and outdoor maintenance with Friends of Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Georgia; completing planting and gardening projects with Common Ground Relief in New Orleans, Louisiana; working with the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, South Dakota; and revitalizing, repairing, and maintaining parks with Friends of Warner Parks in Nashville, Tennessee.