Ditching The Cabanas On The Beach For A Better Alternative

Story by Alysha Lewis and photos courtesy of Clair Bolthouse

Alternative Break Community Partners

Spring break is a time when most students forget about their studies and in exchange travel somewhere warm for the week. Central Michigan University student Clair Bolthouse decided to ditch the cabanas on the beach for a better alternative by spending her week trying to make a difference in the world.

Unlike most, Bolthouse and her peers traveled down to Galveston Bay to help restore the coast for the Galveston Bay Foundation just outside of Houston, TX for an alternative break. The Alternative Breaks program is unique because it focuses on real-world issues allowing students to make a major difference in today’s society.

Clair Bolthouse Planting Marsh Grass

“Every day was a different project, but it all revolved around maintaining wildlife and ecosystems along our coasts,” Bolthouse said. “One day we picked up plastic and trash from beaches, built a kayak ramp to reduce erosion and planted marsh grass to rebuild coastal wetlands.”

Kayak Ramp that the members built
Clair Bolthouse planting trees

“What I think is really cool about the Alternative Break program is that you get to choose the issue, not the location,” Bolthouse said. “When you choose your issue, AB decides where to send you and you don’t find out where you’re going up until a few weeks before the trip.”

One thing many people don’t know about the Alternative Breaks program is that the breaks are offered all throughout the year not just spring break. There are summer, winter and spring break trips offered. For students who cannot attend a whole break, weekend breaks are offered for a cost of only $40. The breaks offered are able to accommodate just about any student with the option to apply for a grant to help with costs.

During the trip, students have plenty of opportunities to make memories during the road trip to the set destination for service. It’s not all work, since there are great opportunities for students to explore popular cities on the way. The groups are split into two vans to drive to the location.

Housing on the other hand can vary. Groups in the past have stayed in small cabins, community centers and many low-cost living options that are available.

“A few of my favorite memories from the trip have definitely been from the car ride down to Texas,” Bolthouse said. “Hanging out with and dancing to music in the car with my new friends was so much fun. We also had the chance to spend some time in downtown Memphis on our way down and really got to experience Southern culture.

Through her Alternative Break experience, Bolthouse gained some great friends and memories, and learned a lot about Costal Restoration and the environment. It was also interesting for Bolthouse to see things that she learned about in her classes as an environmental studies major in action, such as plastics and micro plastics which have effect on the ocean.

Plastic washed up on beach

“One piece of advice that I have for anyone thinking about going on an Alternative Break is to go for it,” Bolthouse said. “Even if you aren’t totally interested in the issue name at first, I can almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy the service and issue once you learn about it,” Bolthouse said.

CMU makes it possible for students to have an opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world and make a difference. To take advantage of this opportunity, visit the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center OrgSync page or by head to the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center in the Bovee University Center room 106.