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The Role of a Break Leader

All alternative breaks are led by two student co-leaders to balance out the work, generate more ideas and create a support network. As a leader, you and your co-leader will be responsible for developing the logistics of your break, developing a strong sense of community within your break participants, as well as creating pre and post educational meetings. Break leaders learn to fulfill many roles:

  • Motivator - Passionate about service and the experience
  • Coordinator - Organized, task-oriented
  • Teacher - Supportive challenging, patient, dynamic
  • Learner - Open-minded, critical thinking, reasoning skills
  • Crisis Manager - Adaptable, flexible
  • Counselor - Dependable, approachable, intuitive

By attending the weekly spring break leader training meetings, you will learn how to create an amazing alternative break experience for you and your group members.

Break leaders make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of JMU students and the communities in which they serve. It could be you!


As a break leader, you will be an ambassador for the Alternative Break program and are expected to help us communicate the mission and goals of the program to students and community members.

Every Alternative Break follows a similar structure and expectation set:

  • community living
  • alcohol and drug free
  • strong direct service

Alternative Breaks partners JMU students with communities in need around the world to improve the quality of life, understanding, and learning for all involved. Students who participate in this program cultivate social responsibility, leadership, and life-long learning; thereby fostering a generation of leaders committed to positive social change.

Spring Break leaders are required to attend all break leader training sessions (held for 2 hours weekly during the fall semester and 3-4 in the dpring semester.)

Your Learning Partner

Each break offers the support of a faculty or staff learning partner. Learning Partners are not part of the planning team; however, they serve in various other ways on the break:

  • Adding educational value to the break by identifying "teachable moments"
  • Bring a mature influence to encourage students to make wise decisions
  • Acting as a resource for break leaders by providing advice and/or support
  • Serve as the legal representative of JMU for the trip in case of accident or emergency

How to be a Break Leader

Weekend Break Leaders

Weekend Break Leaders lead break within 200 miles of JMU for the weekend (Friday-Sunday). If you are interested in becoming a Weekend Break Leader, download and submit a Weekend Break Leader Application.

Spring Break Leaders

Spring Break Leaders are chosen through a selection process that varies slightly depending on whether or not the break is international or domestic. To be considered for a position, leaders must meet all deadlines and exhibit strong organizational skills. If you are interested in becoming an International Break Leader, download and submit a Spring Break leader application and make sure to fill out the International Leader section on the application. Applications are are due in mid-April. 

If you are interested in leading an Alternative Spring Break, download and submit a Spring Break Leader application. Previous alternative break program experience is not required to apply.

If proposing a new break, leaders must ensure they will:

  • Meet agency needs
  • Provide a balance among social issues (We wouldn't want 10 breaks focusing on the same social issue)
  • Offer a safe environment for the break participants

To propose a new Spring Break, download and submit the break proposal form.

Thanksgiving Break Leaders

Thanksgiving Break Leaders are veteran break leaders who have already gone through Spring Break leader training. Potential leaders apply for positions in mid-April and work to plan their break during the summer break.

January Break Leaders

January Break Leaders are veteran break leaders who have already gone through spring break leader training. Potential leaders apply for positions in mid-April and work to plan their break during the summer.

May Break Leaders

This break will consist of 56 students, faculty and staff.  The small groups will consist of 7-8 student participants, 2 student co-leaders and 1 faculty/staff Learning Partner.  In addition, there are three Site Leaders—2 students and 1 faculty/staff member. The Site Leaders are responsible for the overall development and supervision of the break as well as all communication with the host agency and housing. The Learning Partner participates as team member and is not responsible for the leadership or logistics of the break.

If you are interested in becoming a May Break Leader, download and submit the May Break Small Group Leader application.

Small Group Leaders Responsibilities:

Duties Before the Break (some may take place outside of the 8-5 work day)

  • Attend planning and training meetings (apporoximately 4)
  • Help promote the break to other students.
  • Research the nonprofit(s) and locations where you will be serving as well as the community issue that will be the focus of your break.
  • Lead 2-3 pre-break sessions with small group participants to build a collaborative team and educate them about New Orleans and the volunteer agency (these pre-break sessions will take place between February-April). You are encouraged to integrate readings, film, guest lectures.
  • Complete a pre-break survey.
  • Participate in the large group placement meeting/fundraising letter writing night

Duties During the Break (you will learn more during training)

  • Meet with the site leaders daily to discuss successes, concerns, challenges, to plan and problem solve.
  • Be an engaged part of the break and model appropriate behavior.
  • Actively work to include ALL participants in ALL activities and to create a safe, supported community amongst the group.
  • Encourage group cohesion and decision-making.
  • Facilitate small group reflection each day.  
  • Make sure all members of your group arrive to the site on time, with your work site kit and act accordingly with the rules of that site.
  • Encourage picture taking (as appropriate), journaling, and blogging as a group and individually. 

Duties Post-Break

  • Encourage participants to share their Alternative Break experiences with other JMU students.
  • Complete a post-break survey.
  • Strive to be an active citizen and encourage your group members to do the same!


  • Small group leaders will receive $100 reduction towards the cost of the break.
  • Get to know a fabulous group of JMU folks.
  • Engage in a meaningful and powerful service-learning experience!

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