A Farewell from Stacey

Beloved Chapter members, alumni, and friends of Break Away,

I’m writing to let you know that at the end of July, I will be stepping down as the Executive Director of Break Away. It’s been a true honor to serve this community since last spring. While it was a period of time that none of us could have imagined, I’m grateful for your continued support and encouragement.

In the spring of 1999, as a sophomore at the University of Georgia (UGA), I went on my first alternative break trip to Camp Kiwanis in the hills of Danielsville, GA. When I think about that week, I am flooded with memories. Specifically I can remember sitting on the roof of the covered bridge we were building and staring out at those North Georgia mountains. I remember suddenly seeing a whole new part of the world that seemed so unfamiliar even though I was only 45 minutes away from UGA. I had no idea what was ahead of me then. But I knew I was out in the big, wide world for the first time, seeing things from a brand new perspective, bonding with my peers over our desire to make a difference, and hoping that the rest of my life would look a lot like that week. 

Over 20 years later, I can see a line between that moment in the mountains and this moment now. So far, my life has looked a lot like that week. I crave new perspectives and find myself constantly trying to see things through other people’s eyes. I get along best with other people who are willing to question and challenge systems so that we can collectively make things better for everyone. I’m out in the world, learning every day and, hopefully, getting better every day. Alternative breaks laid that foundation for me. I hope that’s what Break Away and the Alternative Break Movement is still doing for students all these years later. 

This Movement—young people and the staff members who support them committing to active citizenship and moving the needle towards justice—is critical right now. Community is an intricate web of competing agendas and needs. Alternative breaks is one of the few programs that allows college and university students the access necessary to see the full picture of what community is and what makes it thrive. It is in seeing that picture, and really understanding the root causes that create and sustain social schisms, that students can see the world through a lens of justice. 

Last year, many alternative break program leaders had to very suddenly stop everything they were doing and completely reimagine what it means to be in community. I have seen students and staff alike struggle to keep the Movement alive. Out of that has come some of the most creative, inclusive, and radical solutions I’ve ever seen. Now that the world is starting to open back up, and travel is again more imaginable in the near future, the work you have done to keep the spirit of alternative breaks alive will carry us toward a new vision for student-led service learning. We’ll remember what we relearned in such a difficult time—that community service isn’t about showing up so we can feel good about ourselves. It’s about listening, learning, and carrying those lessons forward in our own communities.

As an alum of alternative breaks, national service, and now of Break Away, I couldn’t be more proud of what this Movement is doing for those who carry forward our vision. We want to see a future in which everyone is an active citizen, valuing community and making it a priority in their life choices. That future starts with us and it starts now. It starts anew every day. 

Break Away celebrates our 30th anniversary this year. I can’t say what the next 30 years look like for any of us, but I know that if we choose to make community a priority in our lives every day then we’re headed somewhere amazing. This is the work Break Away has always done—helping its partners adapt to change, disseminating insights, and meeting the moment. As schools start to get back to full capacity, Break Away is more ready than ever to help alternative breaks come back bigger and better. It’s the work that Break Away was born to do. This is the moment for which the current staff, and dozens of staff members before us, have been preparing for decades.       

I would love it if you’d stay in touch—you can reach me at staceysharer@gmail.com. Drop me a note and let me know how you are coming back strong next year. If you want to drop Break Away a note or if you have any questions, reach out anytime to breakaway@alternativebreaks.org. We all get those notes and I can say from experience that we love hearing from you.

Yours in service,

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