Jillian Treacy ('07)

"It was service with an edge."

Jillian Treacy's March 2007 ASB trip took her to Guatemala to work with the Mayan community in the highlands.

In March 2007, Jillian Treacy's ('07) ASB trip took her to Guatemala to work with the Mayan community in the highlands.

Did you know what to expect of an Alternative Service Break or was it a totally new experience?

I did service in high school and liked it, but it never went to a deeper understanding. Frankly, I don't know that I would have sought it out at JMU.

What attracted you to participate at Madison?

At the time, you had to camp out in Wilson Hall to get in line for JMU's Alternative Break opportunities; it was first-come first-serve. I was living with a bunch of girls, and several said they were camping out on campus but didn't mention what it was for. I liked camping. I said let's do it! During the campout, trip leaders began to come around promoting their trips. It sounded great. I said where do I sign up and was told, "What do you mean? You're fourth in line!"

So, I was hooked on the idea of going on an Alternative Break after I was in line. My first trip was to New Orleans working with HIV and AIDS. I went down there as a studio art major, and the day I came back from New Orleans I went to the registrar's office and changed my major to social work.

I loved every second of it. It was fun; it was service with an edge. It wasn't all smiles; you were really learning about causes and the social justice aspect of service. I remember it being emotionally straining. We were a tight knit group. Remarkable to think that we left JMU and came back seven days later with that kind of change.

I had no intention of taking a leadership role in Alternative Breaks. But I had fallen in love with New Orleans during March when I was there. August brought Hurricane Katrina. I really wanted to leave JMU and go help with the relief effort. But instead I went into the community service-learning office and asked, "What can I do?' I ended up being part of a committee of students and staff that led the first JMU relief trip to New Orleans in November. I was asked to be a leader for Spring Break. We went to Atlanta and worked with homelessness, then in May we returned to New Orleans and coordinated hurricane relief — three trips total.

How did your service experience at Madison influence your plans for your future?

During my time at JMU, I interned for Break Away®, a nonprofit organization that has made Alternative Break programs a national movement. After graduation I was a community partner coordinator with them. As part of my work there, I implemented a new program to establish more nonprofit membership. I just finished up in August. Today, I work at the emergency care for families shelter at Crossroads Rhode Island Family Center, the largest homeless organization in Rhode Island.