Desire to explore leads seniors to alternative spring break trip

Avni Gandhi ’17 embraces new experiences.

Back when she was touring colleges, Avni was focused on schools located close to her home town in Illinois. And, then she heard about Dominican.

“I really liked the sound of something new and different, so I did my research and Dominican sounded perfect,” she recalls. “I never even stepped foot on campus until move-in day. I hadn’t even been to California.”

The move, says the biology major, was a good one.

“I love it here. It’s just beautiful and it has always felt like a home-away-from home. I picked well.”

When she’s not studying, working out in the gym, or working with patients at a nearby physical therapy office, Avni takes advantage of Dominican’s location, be it hiking on weekends, exploring San Francisco, or visiting Tahoe.

And, it’s the urge to explore that led her to sign up for Dominican’s Alternative Spring Break.

This year, groups of Dominican students spent their spring break studying and learning in a variety of locales from Yakima to San Diego. They helped raise money for their  trips through bake and bagel sales and donations. They also utilized partial funding through a grant from National Catholic Sisters Week.

Avni joined the trip to San Diego, which was led by Sister Mary Soher, O.P., Director of Campus Ministry. The group learned about border issues from Border Angels, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reform, and social justice.

While in San Diego, the Dominican group visited an intercultural events center on March 8, visited Friendship Park along the U.S.-Mexico border with Border Angels and met with border patrol enforcement agents on March 9. Then, on March 10, the group delivered emergency supplies to water stations in the desert.

Stephany Ortiz ’17 said she was inspired to sign up for Alternative Spring Break to learn more about her parents’ country.

“I have been to Mexico before with family, so I feel that I have experienced the culture, but every time I have gone I have been very sheltered,” Stephany says. “I want to learn what’s actually going on in Mexico, and I want to talk with people about their experiences.”

“I am lucky that my family came to America, because that created so many opportunities for me, my cousins, and my siblings,” she adds. “I don’t want to forget how lucky I am.”

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A psychology major who is studying for minors in Spanish and Latin American studies, Stephany is well on her way to a career working as a behavior technician, providing specialized instruction to children and teens with Autism and other special needs. Last summer she began working for Gateway Learning Group, which has offices throughout Northern California, and looks forward to moving up within the company once she graduates this Spring.

Both Avni and Stephany see the Alternative Spring Break as a fitting way to end their undergraduate years.

“We will get a different perspective than what we get out of text books,” says Avni, who currently is studying issues surrounding homelessness and immigration in Jennifer Lucko and Julia van der Ryn’s colloquium Understanding the "Other": Shaping the Future in the Midst of Difference.

“I want to get the story direct from people who are experiencing it.”


March 3, 2017