Alternative Spring Break (ASB) had to allow second-round applications for 13 of 18 trips this year as the program has seen a dramatic drop-off in interest in its 26th year.
“Usually our average is about 40 people applying per trip and this year I’d say the average was about 25 or so,” said Jon McConnell, associate director for public service education and ASB program adviser.
Applications for the 13 trips opened to a second round were due on Nov. 30.
“We haven’t had as many applications this year for [any service-related events]. It’s really strange,” said ASB Executive Director Anna Nti-Asare ’14. “We’re not sure why or what’s going on or if there’s just a lot more happening.”
McConnell explained that a second round was needed “just because there were fewer students that were matched on trips.” A student can apply to a maximum of three ASB trips, and some popular trips receive many applications but can only accept 12 participants. According to McConnell, many trips are full but need to fill up their waitlist spots.
Aside from sending out emails and posting flyers, ASB mainly relies on students who have gone on past trips to promote the program among the Stanford community.
“I think most of it comes from word of mouth and the experiences people have had in the program in the past and longing to kind of share that with other people.” Nti-Asare said.
She expressed her personal enthusiasm about this year’s trips, calling them “the most diverse set of trips that we’ve ever had.”
McConnell also praised the diversity of this year’s student-led and student-conceived trips.
“The courses and trips every year are wonderful. They represent the diverse interests and experiences of our students,” he said. “I’m always just sort of awed by the amazing and interesting topics that come through every year.”
According to McConnell, most of this year’s programs are “new twists on old trips,” with programs on focusing on women’s health, poverty and identity, all topics covered in past years. However, these concepts are being applied to new environments this year, like “Circus for Community Building and Social Change,” a new program that plans to explore what binds the circus’s identity of “otherness.” It’s a trip that Nti-Asare is looking forward to.
“It really stands out to me because it reinvents the way many people would look at the circus,” she said.
Fabiola Esquivel ’15 was a participant in “Life and Shadows,” a trip on immigration, last year. She is leading it this year to expose participants to the “lives of immigrants and what they do in their daily lives.”
Similarly, trip leader Emily Liang ’14 drew from her own experience as a participant.
“It was a really life-changing experience for me and hopefully I give that same experience to the participants,” she said.
But in light of this year’s subdued interest, Nti-Asare urged past ASB participants to “reach out to more people” to reverse the downturn in years to come.