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The Philosophy & Design

Alternative Breaks serves with a nine key components based on the larger organization we work with, Break Away. The design of each break is written out in detail under Types of Alternative Breaks

As a part of the Community Service-Learning Office, ABP has the mission to prepare the JMU community to be educated and enlightened citizens committed to positive social change by providing reflective experiential opportunities with diverse community partners.

Who do we work with?

We work with all sorts of social issues including, but not limited to: refugee resettlement, health, rebuilding, hunger and homelessness, animal welfare, and environment. Our breaks go all over the United States working in various communities. We also offer a small number of international breaks to Central America and the Caribbean. Check out our upcoming breaks to find out what social issue you can work with!

Here is an involvement handout for this academic year that highlights important dates for this upcoming school year! Make sure you continue checking out our homepage for upcoming events and reminders!

Getting Started

Check out our upcoming breaks to find one (or more) that excites you. Then join us for an information meeting, stop by our office (2nd floor of Student Success Center), or simply visit our website again during the online signup dates to enter your name in the lottery! To sign up go to our homepage, look under upcoming events, and you should see an event labeled "online signup." If it is not the time to sign up, you will not see the event/link. Check out the Involvement Handout above for signup dates.

Payment Process & Policy

  • The first payment is due at the lottery and secures your spot on the break.
  • Failure to meet the specified payment deadlines could result in loss of placement.
  • JMU reserves the right to cancel a break due to lack of participation, unexpected events and/or for security and safety considerations. In such circumstance, the university will endeavor to refund fees advanced by participants where those fees are uncommitted and recoverable.
  • Payment Methods: Credit or Debit Card preferred (individual arrangements can be made for check or money order)]
  • Need-based break cost reductions are also available. Download the break cost reduction application.

Refund Requests:

If an unavoidable circumstance occurs, you must IMMEDIATELY notify the Alternative Break staff to request consideration for a refund. All requests must be submitted via email to and include your name, break, and documentation of the unavoidable circumstances. Refund requests will NOT be considered without documentation. Refunds will be considered on a case by case basis. Unavoidable circumstances do not include decisions that you made to pursue other activities. There will be no refunds for any student dismissed from the program for reasons of misconduct or failure to comply with James Madison University (JMU) and/or Alternative Break Program (ABP) policies, procedures, and regulations.


2016-2017 Thanksgiving January Spring-Flying Spring-Driving May Weekend
Total Cost $300* $300* $400-$1600 $300* $300* $25
1st Payment Due at sign up $100 $100 $200 $100 $100 $25
2nd Payment Due NA NA 12/01/16 NA NA NA
Final Payment Due 11/04/16 12/12/16 2/13/17 2/13/17 4/12/17 NA

*Costs are estimated and will be finalized and posted with the break description no later than 1 week before the first payment is due.

Flying & Driving Break Prices:

Current estimates for domestic driving breaks are $250-300 for the week which includes all of your food, housing and transportation. Flying breaks, both international and domestic, can vary due to the cost of airfare. Previous ranges have been $400-$1600. All flying breaks will raise funds to help supplement the costs of the break. The total cost will include your food, housing, and transportation.

The advertised cost is estimated based on flight quotes that may change by the time your flight is booked. ABP works hard to keep costs to a minimum, but cannot guarantee that the flight cost, including taxes and fees will not change between sign-up and the date flights are booked. Successful fundraising by your team can lower your payment significantly. By signing up for this break you are committing to paying the amount listed plus any changes in the cost of airfare.

*The 1st and 2nd payments generally cover all flight costs, so the total cost of the break is not spread evenly over all 3 payments (the 2nd payment is usually the largest). Fundraising will be deducted from the final payment only.


Our breaks are based off of a lottery system. When people sign up, there is an automatic system that chooses participants at random. On the night of the lotteries we share a little more detailed information about the breaks and program . When you hear your name called you may select any of the breaks that still have available spaces. Please bring the appropriate first payment amount and your JAC. We know many of you have papers and studying that you would really love to be doing during this time. There is an expectation that you will listen for your name to be called; however, you are welcome to study and work on homework while you are waiting. The room is wireless enabled, so you are welcome to bring your laptop. Also, if you have class at this time, you will be able to send a proxy (the process will be emailed to you the day of the lottery).

Building a Community

Community Meetings/Retreats

The Community Meetings/Retreats give you a chance to see all the Alternative Break teams at the same time. We want to recognize the role you play in the Alternative Break Movement.

Community Celebrations

Upon your return, all the teams get together one more time en masse. During this celebration, you'll have the opportunity to share a little bit about what happened on your break and potentially find ways to create similar connections within the local Harrisonburg community.

Get Connected

Join our listserv, like our Facebook page, follow us on Instragram and on Twitter! We would love to hear from you and can't wait to see you on the next break!

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