My Heart Lies in North Carolina

By Abby Bowman

          I went in to this trip a little skeptical of the KIPP education system but very excited to work in a school for a week. My expectations were completely blown away by the amazingly hard-working teachers and learning-conducive, inspiring atmosphere of the school that led to one of the best weeks I have experienced. Being someone who wants to dedicate their life to education by becoming a teacher, this week was a huge learning experience that provided me with hope and passion to keep pursuing that.

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Education Systems and Social Justice in DC

 By Emily Lopynski

“The reality in Washington D.C. is if you live in Tenleytown versus if you live in Anacostia, you get two wildly different educational experiences. It’s the biggest social injustice imaginable. What we are allowing to happen in this day and age, we are still allowing the color of a child’s skin and the Zip code they live in to dictate their educational outcome, and therefore their life outcome. … We are robbing them every single day of their futures. And everybody in this country should be infuriated by that.”  — Michelle Rhee in a speech at a D.C. restaurant, May 2008

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Comparing Education Systems in DC

By Chantelle Tait

            This trip was eye-opening, exhilarating, and heartbreaking, all at the same time. My group of 11 stayed in a hostel in North West DC and drove another neighborhood in another part of DC every morning. The neighborhood we were in is one of the most dangerous in America, and driving through it was a sobering experience for me.

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Spinach and Social Justice: BON in Lynchburg

By C. Michael Steiner

I am writing from a place deep down inside of me where I once harbored doubts and worries about whether the countless projects, pledges, and causes I’ve supported would ever amount to any real change in this world. I tried to be an optimist, but I often became fatigued with the ailments of society. I settled my lack of ease by pretending that someone somewhere would sweat and shout on my behalf because I was too busy to be an active component of change in this world. But, I finally had these doubts put to rest after witnessing what can happen when inspiration is backed up by dedication in a small, post-industrial town in Virginia. Befitting such wonderful analogy, the urban farm we worked with in Lynchburg has blossomed from a tiny operation in a few dilapidated greenhouses to a fully functional non-profit that supplies fresh food to many neighbors, a local school, and a food bank. The organization has become a community center, which connects students and retirees, volunteers and staff, people with a wide range of incomes and disabilities, all the while working to alter how we think about food and sustainable agriculture.

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BON: Volunteering in DC

By Yimeng Zhang

Day 1: 3/4/2013

Lesson One: “You don’t let the knife control you, you control the knife. Y’all know it?” [Read more...]

BON in Lynchburg, VA

Check out a student perspective on a Spring  Break Branch Out National trip:

Volunteering at a Free Health Clinic in Rural Virginia

By Daniel Higgins

The Issue and Expectations

            Anyone with access to the media can discern that the United States healthcare system is a major area of contention. Newspapers are littered with opinion pieces aimed at a wide variety of health issues; it’s rare to watch a television news program that does not address some aspect of healthcare failure in this country.

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GO: Grassroots Organizing to Fight Injustice

By Maia Tinder


               We started off the day meeting with our community partner, a local chapter of a community organizing agency, about canvasing in order to develop goals based on the needs of community members.  We learned that communities in the area do not have very many “political resources,” and that legislators and campaign organizers do not commonly go there looking for votes or trying to listen to their concerns. This organization tries to give them a voice.
                We spent the day canvassing in a middle class neighborhood, where people were not that motivated to get involved. It was a little discouraging. Most of the people were not home, but the people that I did talk to were skeptical. They treated me like I often treat someone at my door: sometimes I don’t answer the door nor do I give the person the time of day. I lost morale throughout the day, expecting each door to be another, “not home” or uninterested person. That was until I came to one woman’s door. She was born in the community, but had lived in Richmond for five years before she returned to care for her mother. I spoke with her for about 15 minutes about the changes she would like to see and how this community is so under-resourced compared to other cities in Virginia. She told me about how she really believed in the power of numbers and how individual voices can really be heard by legislators; that it’s not hopeless. She had called Bill Clinton once when she didn’t like something that he was doing and they called her back and discussed her opinions with her. That gave her a lot of hope and respect for our democratic system. She wanted to help spread the word that the individual voice was valuable. It made me realize that this individual power applies to me as well. I can’t expect every door and every person to be interested in our causes, but my work in recruiting this woman, even if she the only committer person I interacted with for the day, she may end up making a huge difference within the organization and its community.


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A Better Life

We all know what the “American Dream” is but do we really know what it means to fight for your child to have a chance at getting close to it?  The Latin American Student Union is hosting a movie screening of the award winning film A Better Life Feb. 21st in Blair 229 at 7pm.

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A Branch Out Blog “Contest” – Win $100 for your Community Partner!

Hey YOU! Yes, you, Branch Out participant all starry-eyed after your transformative alternative break experience – we want to hear from you. Send us a blog post reflecting on your experience with Branch Out.  Please share what you did on your trip, including what social issue you focused on and how your service activities addressed that issue.  What were your impressions of the trip?  What is different about you because of your experience?  How have you grown as an active citizen through your alternative break experience?

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