Active Citizenship

Time flies. It is already the end of the fourth week of Heston. For me, the summer climaxed last week as I attended a week-long training for Alternative Break Projects (which we call Immersion Projects) in Houston, Texas. The week was set up like Immersion Projects, during which we learned about the social issue (this one focuses on the broken reentry system in Texas) through community services and also the basics and best practices of Immersion Projects through workshops.
Words can’t fully describe my experience of the week. It’s been eye-opening and life-changing. Through community service, we explored the issues facing the criminal and justice system in Texas, the reentry process, and possible support systems. We performed direct service at various sites—we painted transitional houses for recently released inmates, helped PEP (Prison Entrepreneurship Program) with marketing research, went to a facility of TDCJ (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) and sat down with the inmates there and had profound and productive conversations with them. Since reentry has always been a fringing issue, being overlooked by the society, the people who have been through the system suffered from the lack of support and stereotypes society placed on them. The week-long trip, however, has opened our eyes. As we found out about the similarities between the people we met in the facility and ourselves, we are impressed by the common humanity we share—striving for changes and better lives. They were grateful to see us being there and caring about the issue. Through the experience, we are motivated to educate more people on the issue and do what we can to help.
Spending time with student leaders of Alternative Break programs from all over the nation had also been incredibly inspiring. The passion we shared promoted open dialogue and created a bond among us. I picked up many great ideas through the workshops, which would help to better our program. Considering the current states of our Immersion Project, I see great potential in the program. If we are able to continuously increase accessibility and expand influence, the Immersion Project (Alternative Break) would exert very positive impact to our campus.
Beyond the actions, I was also impressed by the philosophy behind the Alternative Break movement. One of the major pieces that structure Immersion Project (Alternative Break) is the Active citizenship continuum. It synthesis the experience and push it to a different level.


The Active Citizen Continuum demonstrates the transformative impact an Alternative Break trip would exert on its participants. As the picture has shown, an Alternative Break trip would aim to walk participants forward along the continuum, transferring them from members or volunteers of a community to active citizens. There is a lot of work involved in the process, as shown in the diagram. Being a die-heart CPS fan and a Heston intern, I felt very proud of the work CPS has accomplished: the opportunities it created for students that promote the transformation on individual levels and the comprehensive network that supports the community.
The idea of Active Citizen Continuum ties to the second half of my Heston experience—planning the GIV Day, which I haven’t had much chance to talk about in the blog. The GIV Day is a one-day experience that built into the first year orientation. Parts of the first year students would participate in a poverty simulation, which intend to educate them on poverty issues, and perform direct service at various sites of our community partners, which allow them to learn about different social issues the community facing and explore the service opportunity in town. There’s a lot logistic planning from a superficial point of view with regard to my daily work. But it’s very critical to make the students aware of the connection as soon as they start Gettysburg college career. Although it’s a very brief introduction (the more I went into the planning process, the more I saw the limitation with the event), GIV Day is only a beginning, which supposed to open a window and introduce the first years to CPS and the resources and opportunities it has to offer to engage them into the dialogue and action of community service




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