This year, the annual Tiger Breaks — Trinity’s Alternative Breaks program — which provides service-learning experiences for students during spring break — partnered with RAICES to plan their first fall service break: a volunteer trip to a Karnes City family detention center. This trip would have been scheduled on the recent three-day fall break weekend. However, on Oct. 8, RAICES informed Scott Brown, assistant director of Experiential Learning and coordinator for Tiger Breaks, that the trip would be cancelled.
The volunteer opportunity had been planned since early last spring.
“Last spring, we started conversations with RAICES, and they’ve been active partners. We’ve had students volunteer with them either individually or in groups, and we have students who have interned there, and given just the national discourse around immigration, we thought that this was a unique opportunity,” Brown said.
“Initially, [RAICES] said it was due to emergent responsibilities, and then someone later clarified that they were actually moving their offices out of the family detention center to a new location, and they had short notice that this was happening,” Brown said.
Brown was disappointed but was also understanding of the situation.
“I wanted to convey, certainly, my disappointment that our students weren’t able to go on this unique volunteer opportunity … but I also wanted to be sensitive at the same time [to how] they are an organization that is doing good work in a volatile climate where needs change on a moment’s notice,” Brown said.
Victoria Carr, a junior who signed up for this Tiger Breaks trip, agreed with Brown’s sentiments regarding the cancellation.
“I was disappointed, but I understood the risk involved with going to the detention center and knew RAICES was only acting in our best interest,” Carr wrote over an email interview.
Carr voiced interest in attending next spring’s Tiger Break to the El Paso/Las Cruces area, which will also be focused on immigration.
Brown emphasized the importance of providing new opportunities to the students who had signed up as site leaders or as volunteers.
Jeysel Huezo and Karla Penaloza Escareno, two Trinity sophomores who signed up as co site leaders, will have the opportunity to co-lead the spring El Paso/Las Cruces trip. In addition, students who were signed up for the canceled trip to Karnes City will have priority to go on the El Paso/Las Cruces trip if they choose.
Students who were signed up to go to Karnes City and who want to go on the other spring Tiger Breaks trips to Oklahoma City, focused on poverty and homelessness, or New Orleans, focused on environmental justice, will have to complete a new application.
There may still be a fall break service trip next year.
“We’re still committed to fall break for next year, and we’re also thinking about a short condensed winter break trip at some point,” Brown said. “It’s too early to tell what the social issue or location will be [for fall break], but because it is two-and-a-half-day experience, it can’t be too far from San Antonio so it can even be a localized volunteer experience.”
Brown said that this experience won’t change the Center for Experiential Learning’s relationship with RAICES.
“I don’t anticipate that our partnership with RAICES in other avenues, whether it’s service learning or internships, will be stifled because of this one-time cancellation,” Brown said. “They’re doing amazing work.”
Penaloza Escarenodo also encouraged students to volunteer with RAICES.
“I volunteered with RAICES one or two semesters ago and they always need help, whether it’s volunteers, or help with paperwork, or anything else,” Penaloza Escareno said.
Students who would like to learn more about upcoming Tiger Breaks trips can contact Scott Brown for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.