Brooke Arruda

Contributing Writer 

Being a first-year in college, parents and family members are always encouraging you to get out, make new friends and meet new people. I thought Alternative Break would be the perfect opportunity, and little did I know when I signed up for this program that it would change my life.

Five other girls and I took an 11 hour drive down to Roanoke, Virginia, where we would be partnered with Small Steps Learning Academy (SSLA). Small Steps Learning Academy provides an educational setting for children from ages six weeks to 12-years-old. In the building itself, there was an infant room, two-year-old room, three and four-year-old room, pre-k room, preschool room and an after school room.

For the majority of the trip, we got the chance to spend time with the children and really get to know them. For anyone that has ever worked with kids before, you will know that it takes as quick as five minutes to create a bond with them. I made bonds with children that I will never forget and I am so grateful for that.

Crae Messer / Managing Executive Editor

Crae Messer / Managing Executive Editor

One of the days, Tarren McCoy, who is the owner of SSLA, took the time to expose us to different daycares in the area. She brought us to a faith-based daycare, a low income day care and a state-run facility. It was nice to be able to see the different types of education children are getting just based on location. All the sites, I thought, were amazing and provided everything needed for the children and more.

At the faith-based facility, we got to participate in “Reading Readiness.” This is when we brought books to the children and got to read them in front of the class. It was great to see how interested the kids were in the book and how much they genuinely wanted to learn. Another day, we went to the Roanoke Memorial Hospital and there we got a tour from one of the workers. It was very heartbreaking to see children in pain, but heartwarming seeing all these workers putting everything they can into making these kids have a comfortable time at the hospital.

We gave back to the community by organizing closets at SSLA and going through books. Any book that was damaged would be put into a big box and at the end of the trip, we donated them.  Going into the trip, I did not know any of the girls, and by the end of the week we were having jam sessions in the car and racing down aisles of the local Walmart. I now consider all of these girls my closest friends.

I think my favorite part of Alternative Break was being surrounded by group members that all have the same passion as me, which is helping others. I encourage everyone to get involved with this program because it exposes you to new people not just from your school, but from completely different communities around the United States.

Brooke Arruda can be contacted at


Other articles in this series:

“Students experience winter Alternative Break trips: Sustainable living in the wilderness”

“Students experience winter Alternative Break trips: Helping those with disabilities and special needs”

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