Alternative Break: North Carolina

Keene State College students participated in service projects with Alternative Break to help address unmet community needs.

Alternative Break (AB) Leader and KSC junior and elementary education major Amy Richo traveled to Asheville, North Carolina in January with her team to volunteer with the YMCA of Western North Carolina.

“We helped out with their after school program and fixed up the site we were staying at to enhance safety for all of the kids who went to the after-school and summer camp that they host,” Richo said.

Richo said that most of the maintenance took place during the morning and early afternoon while the kids were in school. Once children started arriving at the YMCA, Richo said the team would switch gears and interact with them directly.

Photo Attributed by alternative break members facebook page

Photo Attributed by alternative break members facebook page

“Our issue was youth development and we saw how the area around the children has to be as safe as possible in order for the kids to not get hurt,” Richo said, “We paid attention to the way the children acted and interacted with each other.”

KSC sophomore and elementary education and psychology major Casey Matthews was also a participant in the trip to Asheville. Matthews said she valued the interactions and relationships built with the children and staff the group worked with.

“While our team was there we did YMCA site maintenance while the kids were at school,” Matthews said, “Our two main projects were building a set of outdoor stairs and taking down a climbing wall that was unsafe for use.”

Matthews said it served as an eye opener in realizing the importance of active citizenship within our community, as well as others in need.

“After the school day we participated in the after school program. My favorite part was getting to volunteer in the Y[MCA]’s food pantry,” Matthews said, “Our team also made some time for downtown exploration and fun sight-seeing.”

A separate AB team traveled to Pittsboro, North Carolina, to volunteer at Carolina Tiger Rescue and to focus on animal rights.

Photo Attributed by alternative break members facebook page

Photo Attributed by alternative break members facebook page

The participants completed grounds work and maintenance, which allowed the staff to place greater focus on helping the animals directly.

KSC sophomore and journalism major Justin Mahan participated in  this trip as well.

Mahan said he didn’t fully understand the issues his group was going to deal with until he went.

“We were working at a facility that takes in wild cats from different situations and nurtures them and gives them a home,” Mahan said. “In North Carolina it is legal to own exotic animals. Because of this law, people want to get tiger cubs, lion cubs or other smaller exotic cats and keep them as a pet for themselves. When they get bigger, people don’t want them anymore or just don’t know how to take care of them properly. That’s where Carolina Tiger Rescue comes into play.”

Mahan said some of the tasks they completed included fixing drainage issues, repairing fence damages, cleaning up debris, removing brush from a river and much more. The team even made an appearance on the Carolina Tiger Rescue’s Facebook page.

Jessica Ricard can be contacted at


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