Beyond Bama offers students the opportunity to travel while making a difference

Beyond+Bama+offers+students+the+opportunity+to+travel+while+making+a+difference

A volunteer holds a opossum during a trip with Beyond Bama.

CW File

Alexis Faire

Traveling is a goal for many college students, but for Beyond Bama, the goal is to make a difference in communities – while traveling.

Beyond Bama has been a volunteer program under the Center of Service and Leadership at The University of Alabama for the past 19 years. It provides alternative fall, winter and spring break options to a group of about eight to 25 students interested in participating in community service. While volunteering with the program, students are exposed to a variety of important topics, including literacy, poverty, culture, homelessness and the environment.

“We want to have students working in the Tuscaloosa community, but we also think it’s important to get them outside of the Tuscaloosa community,” said Tyler Sullivan, a senior majoring in geology and the team leader for Beyond Bama. “They’re obviously going to spend four years here – most students only spend four years here – and move on to other places. So we kind of want them to get a broader, not just world perspective, but country perspective, to see new areas and to see if other areas in the world are sharing the same issues as Tuscaloosa and how they’re different.”

UA students will have the opportunity to participate in several trips this semester – both international and domestic. Interested participants can apply at volunteer.ua.edu/alternative.cfm. Students will then be contacted for an interview with one of the assistant team leaders. Although the applications for the upcoming fall break domestic trip to Selma, Alabama, and the winter break international trip to Managua, Nicaragua, are closed, students can still apply for other trips.

Beyond Bama’s fall trip to Selma, Alabama, will take place Oct. 28-31. Dwyer Freeman, a sophomore majoring in German language and literature and an assistant team leader for the program, said she hopes by bringing students to Selma, they will have a better understanding of the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, as well as the communities they will serve.

“We are planning to work in elementary schools as a teacher’s aide and exposing kids to other opportunities that they can have,” Freeman said. “Even in the basic conversations, [you ask], ‘Oh, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ [Then you mention] there’s this thing [for example] called engineering.”

Freeman said the students will participate in activities, such as non-violence training, in regard to Martin Luther King, Habitat for Humanity services and a history tour of Selma.

Applications are still open for students who wish to participate in the alternative winter break domestic trip where the organization will partner with Auburn University for House United and travel to Greensboro, Alabama, Dec. 13-17.

“We are going to be working for Habitat for Humanity,” said Janet Ruppert, a sophomore majoring in computer science and an assistant team leader for Beyond Bama. “I think it’s an important time of year to be thinking about what you do for other people because winter break is usually the time you take for you and your family, and I think that’s important, but it’s [also] important to prioritize other people in your life, and that’s why we do service in the CSL. It’s great to give up your break to something for someone else’s holidays.”

Students who want to participate in the international trips but cannot afford the fee can apply for the UA Away scholarship – located at sa.ua.edu – through the Division of Student Affairs.

Sullivan said the CSL is lenient with students who cannot afford the trip fee all at one time, and they will work with each student to establish a payment plan.

“I think I see college as [the idea that] you’re doing real-world stuff and preparing yourself to be a full adult,” Ruppert said. “So I think a lot of what you do is modeling, and I definitely think the model of my life when I grow up is going to include service, and all I can say is you really have to make that your time in your schedule.”

Beyond Bama advertises its upcoming events through social media, emails and the University’s website.