Parent Organization: Student Involvement & Leadership Center

Alternative Breaks provides immersive volunteer experiences that educate students and foster a lifelong commitment to service. These opportunities address pressing issues and facilitate change in personal perspectives through education, direct service, and reflection.

About Us

Alternative Breaks is a service learning organization dedicated to providing students with immersive volunteer opportunities both within the local community, as well as across the nation. As one of the primary service learning initiatives at KU, we provide service trips for more than 800 students each year. To complement the break experience, we offer a class component for our week-long Winter, Spring and Summer programs that can be completed for KU course credit. We also include educational components for our shorter Fall and Weekend Breaks.

During our week-long programs, groups of seven KU students travel to non-profit organizations across the country for a week of volunteering. Each group focuses on a specific issue; previous topics include environmentalism, LGBTIQIA+ advocacy, women's rights, homelessness, aging, and disaster relief. We seek to provide KU students with a unique opportunity to volunteer and grow on a personal level.

Alternative Breaks was established at KU in 1995 with a Spring Break trip to El Paso, TX. Since then, it has expanded to include Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Weekend Break programs. The Winter and Spring Break programs are accompanied by a for-credit class that serves as a basic introduction to the non-profit sector, volunteerism, and several social issues covered by the season’s trips.

Alternative Breaks operates according to the belief that community service is a valuable response to the social problems that we face in today’s context and that knowledge about the non-profit sector is essential for our generation. We hope to introduce students to existing responses to social problems through service work, and to start a discussion that will help students formulate their own individual and collective responses. We attempt to motivate college students to become active and present members of their own communities and to recognize the different needs of local, national, rural, and urban communities.

We are interested in addressing the following questions:

  • What does volunteering mean in our context and is it valuable?
  • What is the non-profit sector? Why does it exist? Is it effective?
  • What does it mean to be an active member of your own community?
  • How do we examine and interrogate our own identities, assumptions, values, questions, and personal beliefs about our communities?
  • How are existing collective responses to social problems effective or ineffective?
We want our participants to be able to:
  • Identify themselves and recognize their own capabilities, privileges, biases, assumptions, weaknesses and strengths
  • Illustrate an understanding of the non-profit sector and volunteerism
  • Discuss social justice, community organization, and civic responsibility
  • Develop interactive skills to work with persons of diverse backgrounds and different value systems
  • Initiate service projects and become active and aware citizens in their own communities
Address Student Involvement & Leadership (425 KS Union)
Lawrence, KS 66045