Alternative Breaks

No matter what your interest is, there is an Alternative Break opportunity for you.

Alternative Breaks allow students to spend time doing service work while traveling outside the community. This may involve providing childcare in a homeless shelter or being involved in disaster relief efforts. Whatever you’re doing, you’ll have fun while reflecting on what is important to you in life.

What is Alternative Break like?

Most service teams include eight to 12 people, except when partnering with agencies that provide bus transportation and encourage larger groups of volunteers. Each team has a staff advisor and student leaders. Prior to departure, the entire team meets regularly to better understand what to expect on the trip.

Not surprisingly, Alternative Break opportunities have been well received by Alma College students and staff. The program has grown from a single trip of 20 participants in 2003 to 10 or more weeklong trips during the academic year.

In addition to learning about social issues, Alternative Break participants experience the local culture at their destination. Each service opportunity includes time to sight see, enjoy a local restaurant, or relax with friends. All Alternative Breaks are alcohol- and drug-free. Curious about what Alternative Break is like? Ask student Lauren Engels or Katherine Vaillancourt.

Multiple Alternative Break opportunities are offered to students during academic breaks. With a significant subsidy from the Responsible Leadership Institute (RLI), these service experiences are available at affordable costs for one week of travel, room and board.

What were the social issues and community partners for the 2014/2015 year?    

Alternative Fall Break:

  • Urban Poverty-Open Door Ministry and Cass Community Social Services, Detroit
  • Flood Relief-All Hands Volunteers, Project Detroit
  • Environment: Howell Nature Center

Alternative Holiday Break:

  • Affordable Housing-Habitat for Humanity of Elizabethtown, KY
  • Urban Poverty-Center for the Homeless, South Bend, IN
  • Domestic Violence-Every Woman’s Place of Muskegon
  • Children’s Health-Ronald McDonald Charities of Memphis
  • Immigration and Border Issues-Kino Border Initiatives and BorderLinks of Tuscon, AZ
  • Urban Poverty/Health Care - Various sites in Louisville, KY

Alternative Spring Break

  • Civil Rights-Freedom Foundation of Selma, AL
  • Immigration/Border Issues-Partners in Tuscon, Nogales and/or El Paso
  • Home Access-United Cerebral Palsy of Middle Tennessee (wheelchair ramp construction)
  • Ecology-St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge
  • Environment-Mammoth Cave National Park

If you have questions, contact Sallie Scheide at (989) 463-7043 or visit the Responsible Leadership Institute office in the Center for Student Opportunity, located in Tyler-VanDusen. Alternative Breaks Board Co-chairs are Lauren Engels ( and Katherine Vaillancourt (