The Center for Student Leadership Ethics & Public Service at NC State sends students who love to serve out into the world on what are known as Alternative Service Breaks. Students can choose between fall, winter or spring break and between programs that feature different countries or more locally-focused service projects. The stories in this series are just a few of many students who will be going out and developing leadership and service skills over spring break, which begins Monday.
Brittney Garcia, Guatemala
Brittney Garcia’s spring break trip to Guatemala will be a personal and educational experience.
“As a Latina, I am very passionate about the Latino culture in general and being a part of this trip is another opportunity to become immersed into another lifestyle and adapt it as my own,” says Garcia.
Garcia, a senior majoring in international studies with a concentration in international relations, is a team leader for the alternative spring break trip to Guatemala. The team will mostly focus on gender issues in Guatemalan society.
“One of the reasons I am going is because this is a topic I am very passionate about,” says Garcia, who is from Rockingham, N.C. “I love listening to the different stories women have to share. I feel that personally listening to their stories and all they have gone through helps me understand them a bit more than if I were to read about it.”
On a previous trip to Guatemala, Garcia met many women and girls who changed her life through Starfish One by One, a group that helps girls continue education and find opportunities to use the skills they’ve developed. “One girl, about 15 years old, took care of the accounting for a local school!” she says.
Garcia saw the sorts of problems women and girls are dealing with in Guatemala, like the barriers blocking higher education. “Many of (the girls) had big dreams and aspirations but they knew they would not reach them due to several factors,” says Garcia. “Some of them did not have money, others had to stay home and help their families. It was heartbreaking.”
Garcia hopes to help these girls realize their dreams are achievable. “Here, we are taught to dream and it was difficult to see the faces of little girls who can’t really afford to dream sometimes,” says Garcia. “That is where the organizations we work with come in. They help them realize that their dreams are closer than they think. It is a great project to be a part of.”
The organizations the NC State students will be working with provide the girls with opportunity through internship or other options to achieve goals.
“It is amazing to see how their work really helps many of these girls,” says Garcia. “Mayra, the 15-year-old that manages the accounting for a school, has a big opportunity to help her family through this internship. I hope that in the coming years, more families realize that education would ultimately help them.”
This coming spring break may be Garcia’s second time to Guatemala, but it will be her first experience leading a trip. She was inspired by the leadership of the last trip to become as a leader herself.
“Besides the fact that I fell in love with Guatemala the first time I visited, my team leaders from last year’s trip played a major role in my life as I applied for the position,” she says. “Together, they led by example and exemplified what I believe a true service leader should be like. I think the most important part for me was also the fact that they believed in me enough to tell me to apply. That meant the world to me.”
Garcia hopes to gain a lot more personally on this second trip. “Last year, I went through a lot of personal growth throughout the trip,” she says. “I hope that this year brings the same not only for me, but for our team as well.”
Besides personal growth, Garcia sees her alternative spring break trip as an opportunity to spread education of gender issues and change lives. “I hope to learn more about the culture in Guatemala and share it with others here,” she says. “But, more than anything, I want to come back prepared to become more involved to work with gender issues here in the USA.”