COVE Spring Break Trips Provide Productive Alernatives

Over the mid-term recess, the Max Shacknai Center for Outreach Volunteerism and Education (COVE) sponsored three alternative Spring Break trips. Two of the trips focused on community service on the Lakota Reservation and at the Pathfinder Village. The third trip was a social enterprise trip to New York City which focused on exploring careers that impact social innovation.

The students who traveled to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota worked to rebuild community members’ homes while learning about Lakota culture. Partnering with the non-profit organization Re-Member, the 10 Colgate students on the trip joined about 50 volunteers from around the country to help rebuild the homes and lives of community members. Colgate students stayed on the reservation for six days, from March 9 to 15.

Students went through extensive pre-departure meetings about a month ahead of the trip in order to learn about what to expect on the Reservation, the background of the population and ways to prepare for the work they would be doing.

“It’s a very low-income community and one that is very under-served, as well as remote. This trip offers the unique opportunity to learn about our country’s treatment of its native people and help rebuild this relationship,” COVE Director Krista Saleet said.

First-Year Lorelai Avram said the trip was very eye-opening.

“For me, the highlight of the trip was being able to put into perspective everything that we do in highly academic places like Colgate,” Avram said. “People with amazing educations should do something to change [ poverty in the U.S.], rather than stay in their own intellectual and professional bubbles.”

The service trip to Pathfinder Village in Edmeston, N.Y. was held from March 11 to the 15 and provided students with the opportunity to interact with the residents and staff of the community. Pathfinder Village is a private, non-profit residential community and day-school for individuals with Down’s syndrome located only about 25 miles from Hamilton. The five students on the trip helped with maintenance projects in the Village and then also spent time interacting through group activities with residents and staff members. The COVE has offered this trip for the past three years partly because of the Village’s close proximity and partly because of Colgate’s strong connection to the community.

“Colgate has a special relationship with Pathfinder. Students will volunteer there throughout the year and sometimes the residents will come to campus. This trip is an extension of our connection since students on the trip really get to spend a lot of time learning about the community and building relationships with the residents there. The students that go are very passionate about the connections and friendships they make with the residents,” Saleet said.The third trip offered was a new social enterprise trip to New York City. A group of 10 students visited different companies from March 10 to 15 to learn about possible career paths with ventures that positively impact social issues. Students on the trip visited companies such as Google, J.P. Morgan Chase and Kenneth Cole as well as the Columbia Business School and NFL headquarters and in the evenings had dinner with Colgate alums who have careers aiding social innovation.

“The goal of the trip is to explore different entry points for for-profit careers that can make an impact, so students [got] a wide variety of experiences related to social enterprise. We [stayed] in a hotel that adheres to those principles and ate at restaurants which also follow these ideals as well so it was kind of a total immersion in that space,” leader and organizer of the trip Saleet said.

Prior to leaving, students had pre-departure meetings for five weeks with readings and speakers associated with the topic of social enterprise.

Saleet said that she was excited about what students will do after having all these experiences.

“I want to see what they take away from this trip and what their next steps are. All students on the trip are juniors and seniors so they are actively involved in, or thinking about, job searches,” Saleet said. “Hopefully this will help inform what they want to do once they leave Colgate and how they can make an impact on their communities.”

The COVE has been offering alternative break trips for the past ten years and originally offered only one or two trips a year, but this number has now grown to seven or eight. The COVE is also sponsoring an interfaith trip in May to Germany. Students are selected to participate in COVE trips based off of their submitted applications.

Saleet said that the COVE offers these trips in order to provide students with an opportunity to engage with different communities and people.

“The trips are a nice compliment to the other activities the COVE provides because it gives students the opportunity to see how they can make an impact in the larger world and think about issues on a different scale and how they translate in different communities. It also provides a really deep reflective experience,” Saleet said.

Contact Sarah Chanlder at

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