SUNY Oswego students providing service through alternative spring breaks


March 5, 2018

With spring break for colleges around the corner, some SUNY Oswego students are taking the opportunity to serve communities in need of helping hands.

SUNY Oswego offers multiple alternative break trips through its Office of Community Services. During these breaks, students typically volunteer to travel in order to work with not-for-profit organizations to help communities with a variety of challenges.

With no classes during spring break, March 12 to 16, weeklong community service alternative break trips will take SUNY Oswego students to either Florence, Alabama, to work with Habitat for Humanity; Pocahontas State Park, Virginia, working with the American Hiking Society; Beaumont, Texas, with Operation Northern Comfort; the Dominican Republic with Outreach360; or staying in Oswego to work with local community projects.

The trips to other states are all-inclusive with room, board, transportation and meals covered by a cost that the college works to make as low as possible for students.   

The newly implemented Oswego option offers students who cannot or do not plan to go home for break to take the opportunity to use their free time over the break to volunteer in the Oswego community.

These students' projects for the week include helping ARISE, a Central New York non-profit organization that helps those with disabilities live independently with projects such as building and installing wheelchair ramps; Oswego County Opportunities' preparation and delivery of Meals on Wheels to local seniors; and work supporting Oswego YMCA projects.

Students also will help locally with Senior Technology Day, working with Oswego Health in a public session open to all senior citizens, to assist with topics like smartphone technology, the internet, email, Facetime, Skype and more from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, March 16, at Springside at Seneca Hill, 10 County Route 45A south of Oswego.

“It will be good for students to see some of the challenges our community has and some of the resources the community offers,” said Catherine Farrell, coordinator of community services at SUNY Oswego.

'Life-changing' experiences

The Office of Community Services on campus works to accommodate students and their interests as best they can. To be eligible to go on these trips, students must go through an application process. It is not uncommon for many students to go on multiple alternative-break trips after going the first time ignites a passion for serving others.

This is Michele Mcauliffe’s fourth alternative break trip with SUNY Oswego and like many others, she wishes she had known about the opportunity sooner.

“Going somewhere that is in need of help and seeing it firsthand is mind-boggling and life-changing,” said Mcauliffe, a senior human development major. “You learn so much, so many skills and you meet incredible people, and meet a lot of people on campus.”

She is the group leader for the Beaumont, Texas, trip to work with Operation Northern Comfort in relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

Alternative break trips allow students to travel to new places, experience different cultures, build relationships, smash stereotypes and even influence career trajectory.

Emma Strujo previously participated in the alternative winter break trip to New Orleans to work with Project Lazarus.

“Learning about HIV/AIDS from a different perspective, other than the classroom, helped me understand how people live with the disease while still being able to live normal lives,” said Strujo, a senior biology major and health science minor.

She chose to participate in this trip to advance her understanding of public health, the area of study where she hopes to achieve a master’s degree.  

These trips enable students to “see the broader implications of why we need to provide service,” said Farrell. She hopes to make the trips even more accessible to students through grants and scholarships in the future.

For more information on alternative break trips, visit

Spring break service -- For several years, many SUNY Oswego students have used academic breaks like the college's upcoming spring break to serve communities in need, including building infrastructure (shown here) in the Dominican Republic.