A Spring Break That Made a Difference

Picture of a group of Miami Regionals students that went on the alternative spring break trip.By Jade Smallwood, Student Writer for the Office of Communications and Marketing

When most people think of Spring Break they think of sun, sea and sand. Not so for the 16 Miami Regionals students and 4 faculty on a recent Alternative Spring Break (ASB) experience. These students traveled to Gatlinburg, TN in hopes of making a difference to people whose lives had been affected by the Great Smoky Mountains wildfires in 2016.

Two of the most impacted towns were Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg where 16,000 acres other of the area were destroyed or damaged, 14,000 residents and tourists were evacuated and 2,000 buildings/homes were also damaged or destroyed.

Aaron Smith, a sophomore journalism major at Miami Regionals, shared what the group did on each day of the trip, “Friday we visited Berea College to learn more about the appalachian movement. Saturday we had our first service day where we went to the house site. We cleaned up the site so they could start rebuilding there. The service day consisted of moving bricks, moving the shed onsite and removing excess debris. We had three services days while there. Then on Sunday, we had a fun day and went to Dollywood!”

What made the biggest impact on Smith was hearing the stories of those affected by the wildfires. He says, “knowing them and their story makes you feel thankful for what you have and I wouldn’t have heard that if I didn’t attend Alternative Spring Break.”

Along with the cultural and emotional journey, ASB provided Smith with practice in team bonding, experience volunteering in a different community, and first hand information about inner-workings of organization he was volunteering with. He met multiple people affected by the fires and this knowledge put things into perspective. When asked what advice he would give to upcoming ASB students, Smith says “Get ready for a life changing experience where you will build a bond with those you go with and get ready to work hard.”