Students in select sections of Integrative Program 101 classes engaged in the Alternative Weekend Program. The weekend lasted from a Friday night to the next Sunday morning. The Alternative Weekend Program allowed for students to engage in team building exercises with their class members, experience a poverty simulation, and take part in community service activities. The weekend was largely about community service but also focused on the bonding of the Integrative Program classes.
“Alternative weekend to me is being able to do something different and be with people I would not normally be with. It was about taking time off from the real world and just relaxing,” shares participant Huyen Bui.
Nicole Gentile shares that she thinks it is important to participate in activities such as the Alternative Weekend because it gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and see how much you take for granted. “I think it’s important [be]cause you learn more about the people around you. I can honestly say that I feel closer to each person in my class. You don’t really know someone until you take the time to talk to them and see them as a person and this weekend really did that for me. You get to see people’s passions and dislikes. You get to see them open up to new experiences and excel at things they love to do,” says Gentile.
Maeve Dineen shared that her Integrative Program group went to a nursing home where they were able to talk and spend time with many of the residents. “It was amazing how welcoming these residents were and how eager they were to talk to us,” shares Dineen.
“We also went to Southwest High School to help them with their celebration party to honor the completion of their SAT prep course. Talking to these kids made me realize how much they valued going to college. All of the students there had large dreams and many of them could tell me with certainty what job they were going to have as an adult,” says Dineen.
The Alternative Weekend Program is a mandatory part of the Integrative Program class curriculum. “I would gladly volunteer to do it again. Alternative weekend gave me a better insight to poverty not only within the Macon community but [also] throughout the country. The poverty simulation definitely gave me a different perspective on what it was like to live below middle class. Although it may have seemed like a game initially, everyone in the room quickly realized how difficult it was to keep their family afloat. We also learned that every ‘family’ that we role-played was the real life living situation of many people within Macon,” shares Dineen.
Rebekah Coon shares that the event that stood out to her the most was sleeping under the stars with just a sleeping bag. “Homeless people or those living in poverty more than likely do not have the luxury of having mattresses and mattress toppers. We slept on the ground in a sleeping bag, which was miserable. It was also very cold [and] our sleeping bags were soaked from the dew,” says Coon.
The weekend allowed for students to learn about how poverty affects those in Macon, teaching them to fully understand the gravity of the situation. “People always go and judge things without even taking the time to educate themselves about the situation. I think now that we are all more aware, we will look at things differently and not take so many things for granted,” says Gentile.