The Leadership and Service Center, located inside UofSC’s Russell House University Union, supports many community initiatives on campus, including the Alternative Break program. Photos by Cam Adams. Graphic by Hannah Litteer.
The University of South Carolina’s Alternative Break Program will be postponed over spring break due to staff shortages.
The Alternative Break Program provides students the opportunity to give back to communities around the South during their fall, winter and spring breaks. It is hosted by the university’s Leadership and Service Center, which helps students expand their leadership development and skills.
“[Our students are] all frustrated and just as sad as we are, but understand the staffing shortages that we’re experiencing,” said Ambra Hiott, the director of the university’s Leadership and Service Center.
In recent semesters, students have spent their breaks working with service providers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Panama City, Florida and a stone’s throw away from campus in Columbia.
Rachel Taylor, a service and civic engagement graduate assistant at the center, said staff turnover and increasing COVID-19 cases in Richland County were among the reasons the program is canceled this spring.
“Alternative Breaks is a really complex program from the back end,” Taylor said. “And just from the capacities that we currently have, with our full time staff, even graduate assistants like myself, it’s a lot to take on.“
Over the last few decades, the program has taken students to homeless shelters, regions in need of disaster relief and areas experiencing food insecurity.
The program has partnered with include Transitions, a homeless center in Columbia, Cocky’s Reading Express, UofSC’s literacy outreach program, and the Mental Illness Recovery Center, a social rehabilitation program in Columbia.
Leah Tichy, a third-year biology student at UofSC, has had a positive experience working alongside the program, specifically with homeless shelters.
“Everybody’s human, even if they might not have the resources we have,” Tichy said. “They’re still people. They still appreciate when you say hi to them or thank them for holding the door open for them. And honestly, they just want to talk to you.”
Tichy said the program has led to her making friends as she helped those in need.
“[Other students] came to my apartment, made cookies, and they kind of made it a competition between themselves. Then the friend groups merged together, and they were talking to new people and making friends,” Tichy said.
Despite this spring’s hiatus, Hyatt and others are making sure they don’t abandon responsibilities to local charities and nonprofits. Hyatt said the Leadership and Service Center will continue to serve the Midlands through monthly Service Saturday projects.
In fact, the center has seen an uptick in student participation, ranging from 70-90 participants in 2020-21 to 100-156 this academic year.
“It’s not like we’ve completely stopped working with our partners; we just had to reallocate how we work with them to make sure we still get students working with them to address the needs they have,” Hiott said.
While there will not be an alternative break this spring, Hiott said the program will be reimagined over the summer with plans to come back in the fall.
Rachel Taylor is a service and civic engagement graduate assistant in UofSC’s Leadership and Service Center. She will be graduating in May.
Ambra Hiott is the director of the Leadership and Service Center at the University of South Carolina.
Leah Tichy, a third-year biology student, has been on a pair of Alternative Breaks with the Leadership and Service Center.
ABOUT THE JOURNALISTS
Hannah Litteer is a senior multimedia journalism student from Greenville, South Carolina who aspires to be an editor or copyeditor for a magazine after she graduates in May. As a writer for Her Campus South Carolina, she developed a passion for covering women’s empowerment and anything related to lifestyle, health, beauty and relationships. She has stories published in InterCom magazine where editing stole her heart after she joined the editorial team. In her free time, Litteer enjoys reading and spending time with her friends, family and cat, Rick.
Cam Adams is a senior multimedia journalist from Greenwood, South Carolina. He writes at Metsmerized Online, part of the USA Today Network. Adams has worked as a sports writer and an assistant sports editor at The Daily Gamecock, the student paper at UofSC. In his free time, Adams enjoys watching Marvel movies and keeping up with sports. He plans to become a sports writer at a daily newspaper where he can use his skills to best serve that community.