Alternative Winter Break: Advancing the Common Good by Exploring Immigrant Resettlement Issues

Story posted January 18, 2011

Few students are eager to interrupt a five-week winter break to return to school a week early. Fewer still are eager to do so knowing they will be waking up at 6:30 each morning and working long days. However, students with the Alternative Winter Break (AWB) program — now in its third year and growing in popularity — are doing just that.

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Bowdoin students participating in Alternative Winter Break pause while working at the Preble Street Clothing Closet in Portland.

As part of the McKeen Center's efforts to foster stronger connections with the immigrant and refugee communities in Maine, this year's AWB program focuses on refugee resettlement issues in Portland.

The trip was organized by Samantha Collins '11, whose work as a McKeen Fellow is to develop international connections in Maine, and Mike Hendrickson '13, who, with Collins, organized the pre-orientation community immersion program on refugee and immigrant issues in the fall.

"It has been such a great opportunity to work intensively with the Portland community in a way that is simply not possible during the rest of the school year," says Collins.

"What makes it a unique program is the fact that Bowdoin students are learning about the struggles of a community that is so close to them and that they can hopefully continue to bond with for the rest of their Bowdoin experience after spending a week devoting themselves to a specific issue."

The eight participants, who were competitively selected to be a part of the program, will be placed in various English language learning classes at Lincoln Middle School in Portland with the theme "Career and the Future" in mind, while also working with Portland Adult Ed and Portland Housing Authority. On Friday, January 21, roughly 60 immigrant and refugee middle school students will be coming to the Bowdoin campus to see what a liberal arts college is like, hear from a panel of professors and eat lunch in Moulton Union.

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