In its second year, the Thanksgiving Back (TGB) program, sponsored by Alternative Spring Break (ASB), received nearly twice as many applicants as last year, filling all trip slots and waitlists, according to TGB Associate Director Thanh Nguyen ‘14, M.A. ‘14.
This year more than 50 students will participate in five service-learning trips—addressing topics that range from mental health to entrepreneurship across the Bay Area—over Thanksgiving break.
In its pilot year, several TGB trips were left unfilled. However, one of the more popular trips this year accepted two more students than it had originally allotted for. Nguyen attributes the increase in interest to revamped advertising.
“Advertising was a lot more aggressive this year, targeting international students and all frosh dorms on campus,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen also said the program received more funding this year, allowing one additional trip and more daily activities.
Both the ASB and TGB programs focus on personal interactions with the communities they serve. While TGB is shorter than ASB, it still provides students with an opportunity to travel exclusively throughout the Bay Area and work closely with various service and enterprise organizations.
Applicants are not required to have prior experience in a trip topic and the program accepts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. Nguyen noted, however, that the only significant trend apparent in the applications was a higher proportion of female applicants compared with last year.
In addition, all the trips this year are new.
Nguyen hopes that continued improvements to the program will continue to attract students of various backgrounds who want to meaningfully spend their Thanksgiving breaks.
“There are so many students on campus who don’t have much to do and often waste their Thanksgivings,” said Christina Zhou ‘14, who led an environmental justice trip last Thanksgiving focusing mostly on the East Bay.
The Haas Center receives and reviews proposals and itineraries on a variety of topics from passionate students. Zhou said she had never participated in a community service trip before last year, but appreciated the opportunity to explore a new topic by forming her own trip.
“Environmental justice was new to me. I did some research on it for PWR,” Zhou said of her motivation to apply as a trip leader. “I only knew about it from a New York perspective and wanted to learn more about California.”
Sustainability was something that Zhou also thought was lacking from ASB’s focus, so she wanted to bring that element to a TGB trip.
“There are a solid set of trips that catered to lots of students interested in health, in LGBT issues and cultural issues, and not so much sustainability,” Zhou said.
The trip component of the program is a culmination of academic study and reflection, according to Nguyen. TGB programs have a course work component of short workshops that place service in the context of regional or personal issues and establish goals for the trip.
“The Haas Center is not just public service but we really push service learning, so being very intentional and reflective about how you do service,” Nguyen said. “We want to give something to the community. It should be a partnership between the community and the service people.”
Annie Phan ‘16, who went on a social justice trip last Thanksgiving, added that the timing of the trips is particularly apt.
“Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, so why wouldn’t you want to give back and give service,” Phan said. “It seems like a very sincere and genuine way to reflect on the things you have and to foster great relationships.”
Contact Alex Zivkovic at aleksa ‘at’ stanford.edu.