ThanksGiving Back draws 94 applicants in first year

Oct. 9, 2012, 12:16 a.m.

This Thanksgiving break, Alternative Spring Break (ASB) is sponsoring four new service-learning trips through the pilot launch of ThanksGiving Back (TGB). Programs on Alzheimer’s disease, hepatitis B, environmental justice and the intersection of art and social change drew a total of 94 applications, including about 40 incomplete applications, in TGB’s inaugural year.

According to TGB director Rachel Kelley ’12, the idea of service-learning trips during Stanford’s weeklong Thanksgiving break was originally proposed a couple years ago, largely driven by huge demand for service-based learning.

“In the past several years we have increased the number of ASB trips, launched the Impact Abroad program and last year decided to pilot a program during the Thanksgiving week break,” said Associate Director for Public Service Education Jon McConnell. “Additionally, each year we see students asking about service-related activities that they can be involved in during the Thanksgiving break since they are not planning to travel home during the week.”

The TGB program is similar to the popular ASB courses. Its goal is to expose students to social issues and motivate them to transform communities. The logistics of the program, however, run quite differently.

There are about a dozen fewer TGB trips offered, all located in the Bay Area rather than across the country like ASB trips. TGB students must only attend three mandatory two-hour pre-trip workshops rather than enroll in a quarter-long course to prepare. TGB trip sizes are limited to 10 students rather than ASB’s 12, and the trips themselves are a couple of days shorter.

According to Kelley, the program has been trying to heavily advertise in order to measure student interest.

“Maybe some people are going to say that they need that time for their families or to study because it is right before finals,” Kelley said. “We weren’t exactly sure what our demand would be like.”

“We’ve been encouraging people in our program to really forward the flyers around to make sure that people know about it, so if we don’t get high numbers we know that people don’t want a TGB program rather than they just didn’t know about it,” he said.

Christina Wang ’15, a team leader for the hepatitis B TGB trip, said her team advertised through flyers and emails.

“Having a trip right before Thanksgiving is really tough because a lot of things are closed,” Wang said. “That’s one of the advantages that ASB planners will have over TGB planners but I think that TGB will definitely grow in trip quantity and options. There’s a lot to explore around us!”

Wang said that she is excited for TGB because it will give her the opportunity to meet new people and learn more about her trip topic.

“A lot of the people I’m setting up tours and shadowing opportunities with are totally people that I admire but haven’t talked to yet, like Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who is a leader in hepatitis B advocacy and a hep B patient herself,” she said.

Applications closed last Friday, Oct. 5. Despite the fact that more than a third of applications were incomplete, Kelley was satisfied with the number of students who expressed their interest.

“Considering that this is the first year of the program and that it doesn’t have quite the name recognition as ASB, we’re really pleased with the app turnout,” Kelley said.

As far as TGB’s future is concerned, McConnell says ASB will evaluate the pilot year of the program and proceed accordingly.

“Based on the initial enthusiasm of our trip leaders and applicants, I would imagine that we will definitely want to continue and hopefully even grow the program in future years,” McConnell said. “As always, it will depend on student interest and on what our budget will allow.”

Students who applied will be notified of their status by next week.

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