COVID-19 impacts service and travel – THE GANNON KNIGHT

Gannon’s Alternative Break Service Trips (ABST) and Travel Programs are set to change their destinations for spring travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new low-risk plan, coordinated by the Center for Social Concerns and Global Exploration (CSCGE), will allow ABSTs that are traveling within driving distance to proceed with their plans, although some modifications might take place.

As for ABSTs and TRAVEL trips that planned to fly, traveling plans will look a bit different.

The CSCGE will offer the opportunity to participate in week-long trip experiences to nature destinations within driving distance.

The CSCGE believes that this plan gives them control over and confidence in their ability to coordinate experiences for Gannon students in May.

Although the trips will be much different than originally planned, students will still be able to have virtual connections with partners and experiences from their original destinations.

Groups will travel and stay at cabins, camps or retreat centers, all provided with community spaces for meals and activities.

The potential destinations for the groups are within Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Some specific destinations include Appalachia, the Allegheny region, Adirondacks, Poconos and Hocking Hills.

The goal for traveling is to stay within the East Coast and the Midwest, while keeping driving time at a maximum of 10 hours.

Students will be transported to the locations via charter buses. However, vehicles will be available to groups so that students can enjoy activities and experiences that are nearby the locations.

At these new locations, groups will be able to experience outdoor activities, group meals, group reflections, community living, adventures and learning opportunities.

The CSCGE office has been closely monitoring the ongoing pandemic and realized that with the current travel environment, as well as vaccine rollout, sending the 27 groups to the original destinations was not an option.

The new trip experiences will cost the students anywhere from $200 to $700. However, fundraising efforts will still take place and scholarships will be available for students to help lower the costs associated with the trips.

Justin Johnson, a senior social work and theology major, had planned to lead an ABST trip to Arizona and attend a TRAVEL trip to South America, but he anticipated the possibility that both trips would be canceled due to the pandemic.

“If we travel to these communities, we risk exposing them,” Johnson said. “These are often vulnerable and marginalized communities. To put out own self-interests above the needs of the communities would contradict the mission of the programs.”

Although Johnson’s plans have greatly changed, he is glad that the CSCGE office is planning alternative trips for the groups.

“I think the new retreat style plan is the best alternative given the circumstances,” Johnson said.

The CSCGE office is looking at the possibility of planning trips for July and August as well.

If these trips happen, graduating seniors will be offered first choice in where they would like to travel.

As for the rest of the students who were planning to attend the canceled trips, they will be given preferred placement if they choose to travel next academic year.

All of the week-long experiences planned for May will follow a COVID-19 safety plan for testing and other protocols. TRAVEL and ABST trips that might be planned for July and August will follow the same safety plan.

More information and updates about the trips will continue to be shared with students throughout the spring semester.


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