What is an Alternative Break?
Alternative Breaks are service-learning experiences designed to heighten participants’ awareness of critical social issues, enhance their individual growth, and prepare them for lifelong social action. Each weekend or weeklong trip integrates service, reflection and education and focuses on topics as varied as poverty, hunger, housing, and healthcare. Please visit the trip listing page for more specific trip descriptions and information.
What makes these trips “alternative”?
Alternative breaks are just that- an alternative to life on campus. The breaks give students an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things and to step away from traditional learning and living. Alternative Breaks trips are entirely drug and alcohol-free, thus providing an “alternative” option to traditional spring break and weekend activities.
Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break
Community Outreach uses the following components from our national partner organization, Break Away, to create high-quality, consistent, and meaningful experiences for all of our participants:
Programs provide an opportunity for participants to engage in direct or “hands on” projects and activities that address unmet social needs, as determined by the community. Community interaction during service projects and throughout the week is highly encouraged.
Alcohol and Drug-Free
Issues of community impact, legality, liability, personal safety, and group cohesion are of concern when alcohol and other drugs are consumed on an alternative break.
Diversity and Social Justice
Alternative break programs include participants representing the range of students present in the campus community. Trip Directors recruit for, design, implement, and evaluate their program with this end in mind. Strong programs engage participants in dialogue that furthers understanding of how systems of power, privilege, and oppression relate to social issues present within communities. This deepened awareness enables students to do more responsible, sustainable, and impactful service work.
Prior to departure, participants are oriented to the mission and vision of the community, community partner, or organization(s) with which they will be working.
Effective education provides facts and opinions from all perspectives on the issue, including ways that participants’ personal life choices are connected to the social issue.
Participants are provided with adequate training in skills necessary to carry out tasks and projects during the trip. Ideally this training will take place prior to departure, although in some instances it may occur once participants have reached their site.
During the trip, participants are encouraged to reflect upon the experience they are having, synthesizing the direct service, education, and community interaction
components. Time is set aside for this to take place both individually and as a group.
Upon return to campus, participants transfer the lessons learned on break by identifying local organizations for continued education or service, sharing their experience to raise awareness of social issues, and by organizing or joining other small groups to take action on local issues through direct service, advocacy, and/or philanthropy.