Matthew Long ('12)

"I gained more in memories, laughs, and experiences during a weeklong service trip than I would have doing anything else that my friends did during their spring breaks."

Matthew Long ('12), a political science major, takes some time for fun on a JMU Alternative Service Break trip.

Matthew Long ('12), a political science major, takes some time for fun on a JMU Alternative Service Break trip.

What attracted you to participate in an Alternative Break or other community service experience?

I attended Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. for four years before JMU, and one of the most important aspects of the Jesuit education was the stress on community service. From freshman year, I was exposed to ample community service opportunities in Washington, one of the poorest cities in the region. Before graduating, all seniors must complete at least 40 hours of community service in their second semester before becoming eligible to receive a diploma. Being able to go out in the city and interact with the impoverished people was definitely eye-opening to my classmates and me. Every experience I had involving community service in high school was a positive one and I knew that once I started at JMU in the fall of 2008 that I would want to continue my involvement in similar projects.

One major aspect of JMU's ASB program that was new to me was the fact that once the trip is on, the students run it. There are no teachers chaperoning the trip, and the enthusiasm that the students bring is what makes the trip work. Fortunately, the trip I went on was filled with JMU students who were very excited and filled with enthusiasm when it came to community service.

One common misconception about ASB trips is that you are "sacrificing" your spring break trip, when it is really the exact opposite. I gained more in memories, laughs, and experiences during a week-long service trip than I would have doing anything else that my friends did during their spring breaks. For everything that you put in to an ASB trip you will get back 10 times that.

How did your experience influence your academic career at JMU?

JMU's ASB program has certainly affected my academic career at JMU and plans for my future. Reading newspaper articles about poverty in America does not compare in the slightest to experiencing it firsthand and seeing families in situations that you would imagine for third world countries.

Everyone I know who has experienced an community service trip like the ones JMU offers has set career goals that are based in helping out those in need. I've heard of future teachers, doctors, lawyers, and maybe even Presidents who want to devote their lives to helping others improve their lives.