Allegheny Students Clean Up Mississippi River For Annual Alternative Spring Break Trip

2024 Alternative Spring Break

Do you remember a single week that changed your entire life? Alternative Spring Break (ASB) transformed a small group of students during a week-long trip over the Spring Break to travel, volunteer, and explore a different region of the United States. 

“This trip was probably one of the greatest experiences of my life. My friends and I are already planning on attending next year’s ASB trip,” says Jamie Marchewka ’27, a biology and psychology major. “My biggest takeaway from this experience is the fact that we need to take better care of our planet. There also needs to be reform on waste management. People need to learn how to be more sustainable, reuse things, and work on the reduction of plastics.” 

This year, students traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to support Living Lands and Waters in a cleanup along the Mississippi River. Students learned how the organization supports educational efforts in the region. The trip only cost students $100. 

“It’s very important that all student applicants know they have access to the trip so they can know this upfront when applying to be a team member. As we look at student demand for the experiences, we’re also looking at how to create and achieve equitable, high-quality trips where student participants recognize the value of the trip for that week of their life,” says Colin Hurley, associate dean and director of community engagement. “ASB trip members become more like a team because they are living, learning, serving, and playing together in their new community over the course of the week. We are fortunate in the Allegheny community to have passionate and generous staff trip leaders and the resources to support these meaningful experiences.”

2024 Alternative Spring Break

Historically, the trips have journeyed between Vermont and New Orleans and been centered around: 

  • Social justice
  • Environmental restoration
  • Poverty
  • Housing
  • Immigration
  • Health and wellness
  • Hiking trail maintenance

“By attending this ASB trip, I learned about the various ways trash ends up in our rivers, what impacts the trash has on our rivers, and what can be done to stop this pollution,” says Claire Norris ’27, who is undeclared. “We did our best to collect as much trash as we could and amassed around 21,686 pounds of trash in total. While I was astonished at how much trash we collected, there was definitely so much more still littering the Mississippi River. However, I was not discouraged by our groups’ efforts because that small gathering of trash still brought us one step closer to our goal of cleaning our rivers!” 

Past partners included Habitat for Humanity, Vive La Casa, Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and State or National Parks. 

“If you are looking for an opportunity to meet new people at Allegheny, this is the trip to go on! I got to meet so many new people in Tennessee and other Allegheny students whom I might never have had the pleasure to hang out with otherwise,” says Bridgette Rourke ’26, a communications and media major with minors in education and psychology.

Learn more about service opportunities here.