Today @ Colorado State has been replaced by SOURCE. This site exists as an archive of Today @ Colorado State stories between January 1, 2009 and September 8, 2014.


Expanding on cultural awareness

June 21, 2010
By Kayla Green

The Alternative Break program strives to immerse students into a community and teach them the values of cultural awareness and helping those in need. For Biomedical Sciences major Jenni Sneden, traveling to these sites has become a staple in her college career.

This past summer, Jenni Sneden and several other students traveled to Boulder Creek, Calif. where they volunteered as camp counselors for the YMCA of the Redwoods Camp Campbell.

For many students at CSU, summer is a time for vacationing and relaxing after a long year of studying; but for a select few, it involves a deeper connection with helping others and donating time and effort to the Alternative Break program put on by Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement.

Helping others, one break at a time

During the summer, many students will travel to various destinations and volunteer their time for those in need. Sneden is no exception.

Within the past few weeks, Sneden returned from Boulder Creek, Calif., where she spent time volunteering as a camp counselor at the YMCA of the Redwoods Camp Campbell. While there, she spent time getting know the children attending the camp and her fellow travelers.

"The trip was amazing! We were able to bond really well with a group of about 10 fifth graders that were assigned to our cabins. We all learned a lot about appreciating everything in our lives, especially maintaining a sense of 'magic' from our childhood," Sneden said.

Three years of service

However, this isn't the first trip Sneden has been on. In fact, she has been involved in the Alternative Break program since she began at CSU as a freshman.

"I was introduced to the Alternative Break Program through the Honors Program freshman year. [Now] I will be a senior and will be coordinating site leader school for next year's Alternative Break program," she explained of next year's goals.

Throughout her three years, Sneden has volunteered for various organizations and non-profits as well as participated in various culturally immersive activities. In addition to her trip to Boulder Creek, Sneden has also traveled to

  • San Juan, Texas, to build houses for migrant worker communities;
  • Catalina, Calif., where she cleared the beach of waste and invasive species;
  • Kenya, where she spent time learning about its female culture; and
  • Moab, Utah, where she removed invasive species and planted trees.

    One of the more impressionable trips Jenni Sneden took was to Kenya where she spent time with the Umoja women.

Perhaps, however, it is her experience in Kenya that was the most influential and impressionable on her. While in Kenya, Sneden participated in a cultural exchange program with the Umoja women and learned about Samburu culture and female circumcision. In addition, she participated in wildlife counts and taught at local primary schools.

"Living with the Umoja women gave me an immense awareness of my privilege as an American female. These women accepted us into their homes and lives for two weeks and genuinely treated us like family."

A true leader

For many of her trips, Sneden also served as a site leader. This required that she take on a year-long commitment to the Alternative Break program and dedicate much of her time to training sessions, additional meetings, and retreats.

It is through her commitment to the program that Sneden has decided to take on the additional responsibility of coordinating site leader school. Likewise, through this program, Sneden has developed a further understanding of life, the world, and people around her.

"I also have a greater appreciation for the non-material wonders of life including community, friendship, family, and trust. Every trip impacted me profoundly in one way or another."

Alternative breaks

The Alternative Break program immerses students and volunteers into a new environment in which they can dedicate their time to helping those involved in that community.

This past spring, students traveled to:

In Moab, Utah, students learned about plateau ecosystems, removed invasive species, and cleared land to plant trees.

  • Achiote, Panama
  • Catalina, Calif.
  • Independence, Calif.
  • Kanab, Utah
  • Kissimmee, Fla.
  • Maryville, Tenn.
  • Moab, Utah
  • New Orleans, La.
  • New York City, N.Y.
  • Shiprock, N.M.
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Yuma, Ariz.

If you would like more information or would like to get involved, you can visit the SLiCE office in the Lory Student Center or fill out an Alternative Break application.