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Difference Makers

Students learn and give back during alternative spring break trip to Selma

Story Series
Action: Racial Justice and Equity

Instead of heading to the beach over spring break, a select group of Bridgewater State University students devoted time to making a difference.

Every year, the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice (MRISJ) offers an alternative spring break program that gives students the opportunity to gain knowledge through civic engagement, direct service and critical reflection.

Included among the offerings this spring was a trip to Alabama and the Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation. Eight students partook in and led the trips, accompanied by learning partners Diane Bell, vice president of outreach and engagement; Michael Sandy, director of Study Abroad at the Minnock Institute for Global Engagement; and Dr. Margaret Lowe, history professor.

The group traveled to Selma the week of March 3.

“It was great to hear how the students were processing all they experienced,” said Jennifer Thibodeau, director of programs at the MRISJ. “Some of the students said the trip made them change their career path. Other students might have had an idea about what they wanted to do for social justice work, but after this they said they had a better and more clearly defined idea of what they wanted to do.”

Indeed, many of the students were personally moved.

“Coming out of this experience, I learned a lot,” said Keneen Maisonneuve, ’25, who served as a student team co-leader on the Selma trip. “It helped me have a better understanding of who I am, the type of person I am, and will help shape what type of career I want to have.”

There were broader discoveries, as well.

“My perspective was changed as a result of my trip to Selma,” said TaNyah McCall, ’24. “It made me realize how important it is to occasionally slow down, and how much a stranger can benefit from you taking the time out of your day to smile at them. But it also taught me that the harsh history of discrimination in our society is still prevalent today, especially in the South.”

While in Selma, members of the group participated in non-violence and conflict training, volunteer work, visited historic sites and attended a reflection dinner, where the participants debriefed and discussed their experiences.

This year’s alternative spring break trips were funded in part by Santander Bank.

For photos and more information, log on to the MRISJ website and social media accounts (Instagram: @bsumrisj, X: @bsumrisj, Facebook:

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