More than a service trip

Rice University News & Media

Alternative Spring Break encourages Rice students to think critically about advocacy
This year, Rice undergraduates traveled across the nation during Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips designed to engage with communities and gain awareness of social justice issues.
Rice students in Edinburg, Texas paid a visit to the Boys & Girls Club of Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley. (Photo provided by Jessy Feng)
In Sacramento, Calif., one group of students worked with local environmental groups and lawmakers to understand how policy and advocacy promote access to clean water. Another group investigated the long-term effects of foster care in New York City. And here in Texas, Rice students headed south to the Rio Grande Valley to better understand the public education system from the perspective of refugee and immigrant children and the challenges faced by adults learning a new language in a new country.
“A large misconception perpetuated by the media is that there is an ‘invasion of illegal immigrants,’” said Will Rice sophomore Smeet Madhani, site co-leader of the trip along with Brown College sophomore Jessy Feng. “In reality, a large portion of this miscategorized population consists of families, parents, children and unaccompanied minors who came to the U.S. in search of political asylum. We had the chance to see this up close when we volunteered at a refugee center and met families from Central America.”
The trip Madhani and Feng designed as site leaders, “Two Is Better Than One: Exploring Bilingual Education, Its Barriers and the Link to Higher Education,” took students to Edinburg, a city an hour north of the Mexican border. There, they worked with community partners ranging from a border strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union to a professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Center for Bilingual Studies and came away with an entirely new understanding of how language affects every …

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