press release


WOU Honored for Commitment to Service-Learning and Community Service

for release: March 11 , 2010

MONMOUTH – For the fourth consecutive year, Western Oregon University has been recognized for the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, a prestigious award recognizing universities across the United States who have demonstrated a commitment to providing their students with opportunities for service-learning and community service. The honor roll is meant to credit and notify local communities about the university’s commitment and achievements in service. WOU is one of only four higher education institutions in Oregon to be on the honor roll each year since its inception.

One of the programs that has been instrumental to WOU being recognized for this award is the Alternative Break Program, which is sending students, faculty and staff on trips for the fifth year. The Alternative Break Program gives students the opportunity to team up with faculty and staff at WOU to participate in service learning trips across the country and around the globe. Student leaders are chosen by the Office of Service Learning and Career Development and are given the freedom to decide their service site and location, plan trip details, recruit and train team members and advisers, and lead the trips themselves.

"We are extremely excited here at the Office of Service Learning and Career Development to learn that WOU has once again been recognized for the President's Community Service Honor Roll. Hundreds of students and staff here at Western put in thousands of hours of volunteering, community service, and service learning during the 2008-09 school year, and it is great to see those efforts being acknowledged rewarded,” said Michael Finlay, community partner liaison in the Office of Service Learning and Career Development. “We are especially proud of the Alternative Break Program here as it has been instrumental to our university getting recognized for this award, and is about to celebrate the fifth year of sending students and faculty/staff off to serve communities across the state, throughout the nation, and the world."

The first Alternative Spring Break Trip took place in the spring of 2005 and included a group of 18 students and two faculty and staff. This group served with Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge in Montrose, Colorado and helped construct a house from the ground up for an underprivileged family in the area. Since then, 183 students and 46 faculty and staff have served 22 different organizations through 24 different service project trips. These trips have served in areas as close as Independence, Ore. and as far away as Hanoi, Vietnam with 10 states and four countries served. The projects have helped address a number of different social issues ranging from hurricane relief efforts and house construction, to homelessness and animal conservation. Other trips have served with Boys and Girls Clubs, youth emergency shelters, food banks, and orphanages. The cost for all of these trips reached a combined total of $153,567 as of winter 2009, which was met by each team through fundraising, in-kind donations, and team contributions.

This year we have two teams of students and advisers taking part in spring Alternative Break Trips. One team will head to Yakima, Wash. to work with Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge. During the week of March 21 to 28, 2010, the group will help a family in need of a simple, decent and affordable home. The trips were formed in August 2009 and the participants are all faculty or students of Western Oregon University. The team has been working together since August to raise enough funds to make the trip to Washington. By contributing in volunteer activities close to home as well, such as the Waffle Feed for Haiti held at Trinity Lutheran Church in Dallas, and the Dream Center in Salem, the team has proven to show a key interest in getting involved within the community.

All of the team members are excited and ready to go on this trip. “Getting involved, that’s what is important” said sophomore team leader Paige O’Rourke regarding why she chose to give her spring break to something that involved community service and not going on trips to participate in other activities. Paige also mentioned that “…students are challenged to step out of their comfort zones and step up to the task, learning to value not only the idea of service, but service ideas put into action.” Senior team leader Toni Rush added: “Alternative Break is something that creates a sense of community pride within each of us. (N)ot only do we get to see new people and new places, but we get to com(e) back and tell the world just how important it is to volunteer, and maybe install that love for service in those we meet.”

Another team will be heading to San Francisco, Cali. to work with Compass Community Services whose mission is to help families thrive by providing the assistance necessary to find and maintain stable housing, gain meaningful employment and raise healthy children. Each year Compass' six programs serve more than 3,000 parents and children on their journey to realizing their full potential. The Alternative Spring Break 2010 San Francisco Team is made up of nine student volunteers and two faculty and staff members. The WOU volunteers will be filling in wherever and whenever they can with tasks such as painting the Compass Family Center shelter, helping organize a fundraising event, and working with the youth. The nine students (including the two student leaders) have been working hard all year to make this trip possible and are very excited to take part in this life changing week. They have also participated in local service projects here in Polk County, working at the West Salem Dream Center for children. Team member Krista Holloway says that she wanted to participate in Alternative Spring Break to “make a difference in the world.” Junior Team Leader Marcella Flores adds that she wants to “experience the world through others’ eyes.”

If you have any questions or are interested in the Alternative Break Program for next year, please stop by the Service Learning & Career Development Office in WUC 119 or contact Community Partner Liaison Mike Finlay at (503) 838-8716 or

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Interview contacts:

Mike Finlay Community partner liaison, Office of Service Learning and Career Development
503-838-8716 or

Michael Hampton Director, Office of Service Learning and Career Development
503-838-8648 or



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