The concept is fairly simple. An alternative break program places teams of college students in communities to engage in community service and experiential learning.
The communities who host alternative break teams may be near or far. Programs may place student as close as the school’s neighboring states or as distant as another country, but one thing they will all have in common is an environment far from that of a college campus.
Students leave behind the world of books and laboratories and enter communities grappling with issues as varied as urban poverty, racism, hunger, inadequate housing, and environmental damage. In doing so, these students are able to contribute to the community through their hard work. Communities benefit from the tangible work completed, while students gain a broader understanding of the world around them. Many students have hailed the experience as fundamentally life-changing and the best week they’ve ever had.
Each year, Alternative Spring Break at VCU organizes service trips that send more than one hundred VCU students to various sites around the country and beyond, amounting to more than 5,000 community service hours each year that address different issues. In addition to providing community service, participants gain applied educational and personal experiences and discover their role as global citizens.