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Alternative Breaks Program Provides Volunteer Opportunities

Although finals are less than two weeks away and most students are focusing on making it to winter break, it’s not too early to start planning for spring break.

While places like Cancun and Panama City Beach are certainly popular among college students, not everyone is willing or able to make the trek. Luckily, Penn State has several programs for students looking for some activity over spring break. For those looking for a terrific resume booster or those who are just trying to get out of the house, this year the Penn State Alternative Breaks Program will host trips to four different locations over spring break, during which students will participate in several volunteer activities.

The program is part of a national movement to encourage active citizenship among college students. Over Thanksgiving week, students went on the Fall Alternative Break trip to Washington D.C. to work with issues surrounding hunger and homelessness. A total of 26 students (including four site leaders and two staff members) attended the trip and volunteered at various locations in the D.C. area, including the D.C. Central Kitchen, the Capital Area Food Bank, A Wider Circle, Thrive, and Martha’s Table.

This spring, the program is doubling the number of trips and sending students to four different locations:

  1. Rural Poverty in Tennessee: Appalachian Service Project — Students will have the opportunity to travel to Appalachia to build and repair housing for low-income individuals to offer them the opportunity to stay warm and safe throughout the year.
  2. Urban Poverty in North Carolina: Vigilant Hope — Participants will be able to remedy issues of urban poverty, including hunger and homelessness. On the trip, students will feed children and families and volunteer at an urban garden.
  3. Disaster Relief in New York: Friends of Rockaway — Students who attend this trip will help Hurricane Sandy survivors by aiding in the rebuilding process. Participants don’t need any construction experience, just a willingness to engage with the community.
  4. Civic Engagement and Community Development in Ohio: Cleveland Leadership Center — Those who come on this trip will have the opportunity to work with neighborhoods in the city of Cleveland to understand the challenges they face. Students will also work with community stakeholders to learn how they are working to further develop the city.

The cost to attend for the whole week is $75, which covers transportation, registration fees, food, housing, and a t-shirt. Applications can be found here and are due by Dec. 20 at 5 p.m.

The adviser to the program, Kelli Dowd, is new to Penn State but says the service trips she took as an undergraduate changed her life. Throughout her undergraduate career, she went on seven different trips, all of which had an influence on her career path, her choice of friends (two girls she met through Alternative Breaks were in her wedding), and most importantly her passion for social justice issues and a sense of purpose in the community.

“Alternative Breaks is an incredible opportunity for students to learn about themselves, learn about others, and learn about social justice issues and how to become active in making change,” Dowd said.

About the Author

Katie Klodowski

Katie is a senior from Pittsburgh, PA and a retired editor at Onward State. Currently, she works as a staff writer. True to her hometown, she is a fan of Steel City sports but also uses her ballet and music training to be a tough critic of all things artsy. The fastest ways to her heart are through pizza, sushi, and a solid taste in music (this means no Taylor Swift). To be constantly razzle-dazzled, follow her on all social media forms at @KatieKlodowski


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