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New York City 2018


It’s 5 o’clock… somewhere. And that time is for us as we sit here in LaGaurdia airport waiting to board the plane home. Today has been an extremely bittersweet feeling as our trip comes to an end but we reflected on how much we’ve learned and the friendships we’ve created. We’ve spent these last hours doing a variety of things and even traveled to another state!

Some of us found waking up at 5 am to travel to New Jersey to visit Hoboken’s favorite and original Carlo’s Bakery was definitely worth the trip. At the store, we met Buddy’s cousin, Frank, who told us a couple different stories and gave some wise life advice about boys. Following that, we went to Kleinfeld’s Bridal Store (for those who don’t know, its the store from Say Yes to the Dress). We were slightly hesitant to walk in but glad we did it anyway, we thankfully got to meet some of the cast members from the show and see the sale floor! Walking on to our next adventure was the Chelsea High Line, we had some really nice views of the sky line and plenty apartment options for when we return, of course! Just down a couple blocks was Central Park and since we weren’t there all too long the first time we had to do some much needed exploring, so we walked aimlessly through. We found the March for Our Lives and Belvedere Castle ad began our journey back to the Harlem YMCA. Alicia and Nina stayed behind as they went for coffee, shopping at our Harlem Goodwill and visited Black Power in Print Exhibit in the Schomberg Center for Research in the Black Culture, which is where we met back up with them. Now we are about to depart from LGA and start the flight home never escaping the cold. We’ll be back soon NYC! xoxo


PS Aleana kicked a bird.

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Last Day at GMHC

Today was sadly our last day at GMHC. It doesn’t feel real because we have all been anticipating this trip for a long time and in the blink of an eye its over with. During our last day of of working with GMHC we got to help sort files of clients. By doing this job we are helping the employees focus on their patients rather than them having to organize paper work. After completing this task we were able to rejoin the South Carolina group we have been volunteering along side for a conversation with the CEO of GMHC. It was a Q&A with Kelsey Louie and he let us ask him any type of questions we have about being a CEO of a non-profit. Some great advice that he gave us was to always run in the faster heat, pick the job you don’t know how to do not the one that you are basically already doing and lastly, find your brightest goal you are trying to achieve in life because this will make each and every decision you make in your life and within your career that much easier.

After saying our goodbyes to all the lovely people we met at GMHC we got to spend the rest of our Friday exploring the big city. Alicia took us to the NFL Headquarters to see the building in which one of her good friends works in which was such an amazing opportunity. It’s crazy to think that the most current Super bowl is running constantly until the next one airs. Following this we were able to access Wall Street so that we could take pictures with the Bull and the fierce little girl statues. This is such an empowering monument and very popular I must say. Next some of the group was able to witness ground zero and the 9/11 museum for the first time. We took time to reflect on the citizens of New York who lost their lives due to terrorism. It was a very emotional experience for all as we took our time strolling though the museum. As our last night in the city we decide to have dinner in Times Square! Our last meal was at Olive garden and we enjoyed every last bite and then some! As a group we have stayed out pretty late the entire trip so that we were able to do some site seeing but as our last night in town we decided to go to bed early so we could wake up early in order to be the first in line for Carlos Bakery..Tomorrow should be extra sweet 🙂


We are fearless girls, as represented by the statue.

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With CEO of GMHC Kelsey Louie



Exploring trans and the city

Well good morning, haha its 12 am and we finally ended our day. We decided it was a good time to wake up early to start off seeing Grand Central Station and grabbing coffee (whats new….).  The morning rush of people was thrilling to watch and we franticly had to find trains we all fit on. Anyway, we went to GMHC for our initial 3rd day. We began filing patient information due to a relocation in the near future for GMHC and an easier work load on actual employees, hence why we’re their volunteering. Today, there was optional HIV testing to experience for us so some of us took advantage to see what others affected actually go through and we also served lunch again, another amazing experience. We were informed that there were 345 GMHC members that were served meals which is a high number for them and substantially larger than what we experienced on Tuesday. Following lunch, it was time for a grand sit-down conversation and workshop about the Trans Community. The workshop entailed how to identify, sexual/romantic orientation, and a variety of controversial trans topics with our new friend Cecelia.

After volunteering today, we started off the journey going to Big Gay Ice Cream (pic below) which was sosososo good and we must recommend for all to adventure there. Being in the neighborhood and down the street, we visited the Stone Wall (pic below) which is where riots began in 1969 for the LGBT community against police for human rights. We ended up getting lost and seeing a beautiful view of the Hudson River (pic below) and found our way back to the AIDS memorial (pics below) and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Both were very astounding in the architecture (light pic below) and the known impact they have had on a many people affected. Since we were so close to Little Italy, China Town and Canal Street it was time to take a mozy on around, shop and explore. We ended for dinner in Little Italy at Lombardi’s Pizzeria, the United States first and finest. Of course we had to explore just a bit and find a small Italian cafe to finish our night with cannolis! We took the subway home and now are off to sleep in order to prepare for our last day at GMHC. Zzzzzzz.





Last night, we received the information that in New York – snow makes the city a bit hectic but we’re used to it, duh! Sooooo, we planned for a relaxing and much needed snow day. We had the chance to sleep in and go for a sit down breakfast at the IHOP up the street, we ended up rolling ourselves home hahaha just kidding. We had more discussion of our previous day and all the informative and educational topics we were still processing. Then, of course to make it an official snow day we cuddled up and had the chance to sit in our commons room to watch the movie, United in anger : a history of ACT UP. After our conversation about it, we played a couple games like Heads Up and Pterodactyl. We debriefed for a bit and ventured out for food (shocker- thats the only reason we left the YMCA all day). We researched a restaurant before we left and upon arrival, they were closed. We searched for another place quickly and ended up finding this cutesy little Hispanic restaurant called Friolitos. Ugh SO good, we want to eat there again before we leave. But we planned out our last couple of days and it looks packed and fun!

Boom. Goodnight here’s some pics of our games and movie day. 🙂

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GMHC Day 2

Rub your toes Tuesday! After the long last couple of days of walking, we kept walking. Starting off our morning at GMHC, our first activity was a Safer Sex Kit Workshop and Project. Our advisors/teachers that morning, Toni and Christina were absolutely hilarious and genuinely relatable. We learned to be more open in discussion of sex in ways of how to normalize it, new slang, not to “yuck my yum,” and the best ways to stay safe. This should have been “normal” for us young adults to speak about but some of us couldn’t keep from laughing, which is completely okay! Following the workshop, it was our time to serve lunch!

Serving lunch didn’t seem to be a big deal to us… However it was the opposite for the guests, they expressed their gratitude and thankfulness because if there weren’t volunteers- there wouldn’t be GMHC. As volunteers, we had the chance to sit down with guests during our break and simply talk to them. Some guests shared their personal stories of school/work, others about hometowns relatively close to us, and some who taught us how difficult it can be to communicate. We cleaned up the cafeteria and sat down for a conversation with Eric Sawyer (pic of us with him below), a strong activist and a Founding Member of ACT UP. During the conversation, he explained the what the process was in the beginning for GMHC as the community involved fought for HIV/AIDS medications from the FDA and his own experience. It was so humbling to see and talk with a person that has been with the movement since day one and previously seeing him in the movie Larry Kramer: In Love and Anger, in person. Shelley, our coordinator came in and talked to us about a possible snow day and we were off to the Harlem Public Library. There, we listened to a discussion about a recently released book Radical Reproductive Justice written by a panel of Women of Color.


For those who don’t know what Reproductive Justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights according to Berkeley Law. In the discussion, they shared personal experience and eye opening thoughts of how healthcare for women of color is and how to be an activist for them. One item for the Q&A that stood out is a woman who shared a story form that night before the show. She brought along her infant and another woman mentioned “I hope that baby doesn’t make any noise,” the mother responded “This baby has a voice and will use it.” This was a great response to the comment and it is something that should be normalized instead of keeping kids quiet as that’s what they learn when pulled out of discussions and many other opportunities growing up.

We ended the night with dinner at a pack-your-own-to-go box soul food restaurant called Jacob’s and our own discussion of all activities through the day in our (Aleana and Erica’s) room — [pic below] disclaimer it was extremely tight fit for the time we were all in here but it was okay because bonding!!

Also, Olivia had the opportunity to touch a fire truck. That is all.

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GMHC Day 1

Today marks our first day volunteering at GMHC. As per usual we had to stop for our morning cup of joe at a nearby cafe in Harlem. Our commute on the subway to GMHC was interesting this morning since it was our first weekday since we arrived on Saturday. The subways were packed with morning commuters like ourselves on their way to their schools or jobs. Once we arrived at GMHC we were welcomed with warm opening arms. We met with our coordinator Shelley where we then did our orientation with the college of Charleston South Carolina on the mission, history and services. Next, we took a tour with the director, David Pais who shared his own story and gave detailed descriptions of each department within GMHC. Today we had lunch at a Korean Food Mall filled with a variety of choice to choose from. We loved the bubble teas! When we arrived back at GMHC we were able to watch the documentary, Larry Kramer In Love and Anger. Following the film we discussed our thoughts, what was surprised us and what we learned from it. We then had a HIV 101 workshop with Rob who shared his own very personal story with us and allowed us to ask questions. He did this by delivering it in his own unique way of “spitting verses.” After discussion we were allowed to split off into smaller groups to continue to tour NYC. Starting off in central park we discovered a bridge that held an amazing view of the city and provided us with beautiful photo op. Secondly, we found our way to an ice skating rink in Brookfield place on the water with a view of the skyline. Realizing we were hungry we went on an adventure to find a Mac ‘N Cheese bar. After indulging ourselves in our beloved cheese we miss we stopped at Grand Central Station to scout out some dessert and admire the beautiful architecture. We ended our night with gourmet cupcakes from the station and returned back to the YMCA for a much needed night of rest.


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A Bit Warmer .. NYC Day Two

Goooood evening,

Today was a boat load of walking and funsies. After being up for so long the last two days (roughly 32 or so hours??), we were in desperate need of coffee so guess where we started the morning?! A cute little coffee shop up the block, of course! From there we went to the Brooklyn Bridge and had a photoshoot, (this entire day really consisted of photoshoots -everyone hated Erica). Since we were in Brooklyn, we figured we’d stop at a thrift store for something to do. Following that, we had our first experience at Shake Shack and did some shopping around Times Square and realized we needed more coffee. Some met at the Veselka restaurant (a sweet czech place- we are trying new thing and emerging ourselves in the culture) for dinner early while Savannah, Amber, and Erica took a taxi to Macy’s and got lost on the subway on their own because Alicia nor Rachael were in attendance. A small thrift store was down the street so of course we had to check it out where we all had some good finds. We ended the night in Times Square again.

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Facing the same WI cold.. Only in NYC Day 1

Hello and welcome to our Alternative Break Blog

To introduce ourselves, we are your bloggers: Erica Meredith and Aleana Schmid (we’re also roomies for the week)! Now you’re probably asking.. Who are these people? What is Alternative Break? AND where even are they? Well… buckle up kids.

Hi! I am Erica Meredith (pictured below: right) and a sophomore attending UWO majoring in Finance with a minor in Insurance and Risk Management. I am Vice President of United Students in Residence Halls and this is my first Alternative Break trip but second time here in NYC. I  am so grateful to have been selected to go on this trip and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

Hello my name is Aleana Schmid (pictured below: left) and I am so excited to be on this trip! This is my first experience being in New York so I have lots to learn about the city. I am a Junior in college and am a Human Services major. Right now I am currently interning at Peace Head Start in Oshkosh and also work at a daycare in my hometown.  This trip will provide me with the knowledge and insight I’ll need to know when I am in my career field.

Here’s a roomie pic of us we took today after climbing what seemed like 1000 stairs!


Secondly, to start off we are in New York City to volunteer alongside 8 other women at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis for our spring break. We are so excited to start volunteering but first, we’ve had some free time! Today (Saturday) begun with pulling an all-nighter (for most of us) as we planned to be leaving campus at 1:45 in the morning. We drove down on a bus to Milwaukee where we flew out to Laguardia Airport in NYC at 4:45 AM. It was an extremely smooth flight with some even better subway rides with all of our luggage with it. We finally arrived at the Harlem YMCA where we will be staying in small bunk bed rooms with a view of the city for the next week! (Picture below from our common area). We settled in and grabbed lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant, which was absolutely amazing! At that point, we truly decided it was time to start our loooong on-going day. We set off into the subway exploring and became extremely grateful for Rachel’s recently learned knowledge of the subway system and how to accurately read a map.

IMG_6300Here’s us before check in!


Our first and realistically only destination of the day was Staten Island, we did an hour round trip to see the skylines of both NYC, the Statue of Liberty, and the island via ferry which was an awesome experience when we were allowed on the outside bottom dock where few people were. After getting off, we went on a much needed coffee run as we had been awake for 32 hours and it was 4 o’clock. We headed back to Harlem and met up with our Trip Advisor: Alicia (the cooliest) and Savanna who desperately needed a nap for dinner at a small and hip tavern blocks away (group pic after conquering previously mentioned stairs below). After dinner, we saw a cute cookie and pie shop next door so of course we had to stop! (Pic of the worker below who was super nice and amazed that we were tipping him, (must not be an NYC thing??) Erica also rates them for top 10 cookies she’s had in her life if that means anything, hopefully making a trip back! Throughout the day we saw plenty of cute dogs in sweaters and cones then ended the night discussing our next free day and the rest of the week! You’ll hear all about it.

top of the hill

bakery boy

Here’s a few super cool pics of us and the city!


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May 2024