Alternative Breaks

What is an Alternative Break?

Alternative Breaks are service-learning experiences supporting alongside the community to seek a more equitable and inclusive society. Alternative Breaks trips are also designed to heighten participants’ awareness of critical social issues, enhance their individual growth, and prepare them for lifelong social action . Each weekend or week-long trip integrates service, reflection and education and focuses on various social justice topics such as racial justice, environment justice, housing, healthcare, etc. 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.

If you have any questions, please email our Alternative Break Staff Coordinator: Carl Soares at

Components of Alternative Breaks

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:

Direct Engagement:  Programs should develop projects identified by community assets and needs and in conjunction with community partner/s.”

Full Immersion: “Alternative breaks provide participants with an opportunity to live in line with community, program, opportunities for individuals to consider ways of aligning values and actions regarding choices about the alternative break experience. Strong programs develop and communicate philosophies and corresponding practices around how participants will approach these topics during an alternative break”

Identity-Consciousness and Equity: “Alternative break programs include participants representing the range of students present in the campus community. Leaders 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 and service work in communities. This deepened awareness enables students to do more responsible, sustainable, and impactful community work.”

Orientation: 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.

Education: 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.

Training: 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.

Reflection: 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.

Reorientation: 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.