Alternative spring break in the Falls

Maris Lambie, Reporter

During this year’s spring break, SUNY Buffalo State’s Alternative Break program took students to Niagara Falls to focus on the issue of urban poverty.


With 24.9 percent of Niagara Falls residents living below the poverty line, it is an issue affecting the Western New York area. While the program focused on local areas in the past, it was their first time working in the Niagara Falls Area. The students left on Sunday, March 22, and spent the week helping out the Niagara Falls community.


Ten students from Buffalo State went on the trip and resided at the Mission House, a local non-profit organization. The students worked with three local organizations, the Community Missions of Niagara, the Magdalene Project and Mission House throughout the week.


With Community Missions and the Mission House, the students prepped and served meals in the soup kitchen for those in need, and sorted clothing donations as well as donations in the food pantry. With the Magdalene Project, the students traveled around the city delivering basic hygiene supplies and clothing.


“The whole trip was about learning about poverty,” said Aurora Schunk, Assistant Coordinator of the Volunteer and Service Learning Center.


At the end of each night, the students would reflect on what they experienced throughout the day.


“It is interesting to see what they say during reflections,” said Schunk, “It creates a deeper, eye opening experience of what challenges people face everyday.”


Alternative Break Site Leader, Scott Thompson, a junior at Buffalo State majoring in urban planning, organized the trip.


“Scott picked the location, he had learned about the Falls in one of his Urban Planning classes. He was really excited about it,” Schunk said. “He wanted to focus on urban poverty in Niagara Falls, he was really attracted to the city. Poverty is a real issue there. He wanted to raise awareness to the students. Plus it gave students who have never been in the area to actually see the Falls.”


While Schunk herself did not go on this trip, she still feels it is a rewarding experience for the students involved.


“For me, it’s about seeing students go from not knowing about social issues to becoming informed,” Schunk said. “Because of their service and watching videos, they have a much stronger understanding of those social issues and start questioning why things are the way they are. It provides an education of what the world really looks like.”


The Alternative Break program has no more trips planned for the semester. Information on next year’s trips will be released at the end of May.


“Keep your eyes open for trips next year or come to one of our information sessions,” Schunk said. “We’re open to all students, and you just have to apply.”


The Alternative Break Program is a part of Buffalo State’s Volunteer Service and Learning Center. The VSLC will be sponsoring National Volunteer week from April 12 to 18 in the Campbell Student Union for those interested in volunteering.


Maris Lambie can be reached via email at [email protected]