General

 What are Alternative Breaks?

An opportunity to immerse yourself for a week or long weekend addressing real world problems while making lifelong connections with other JMU students and communities throughout the world and learning more than you imagined. Nothing compares to this student-led experience. At the various academic breaks throughout the year, you can do something meaningful, travel the world, and get to know other Dukes by participating in an Alternative Break. You may also hear students call this Alternative Spring Break (ASB) as that is our largest and longest running part of the program.

“This experience opened my eyes to so much and made me realize that I should be doing something that I love and not something that someone else thinks I should do.”

-Bronwyn Neal, Alternative Spring Break

 What does "alternative" mean?

These breaks are drug and alcohol free, offering students an alternative to the more stereotypical college scene/spring break. This experience allows students to be immersed in environments that enable them to interact with diverse communities and understand social issues, while still exploring a new community and making great memories with other students.

 Who can go on a Break?

Any JMU student can participate—you don't even have to be full-time! You don’t have to have any prior volunteer experience or even figure out transportation or housing. What more could you ask for?

 What will I do?

All breaks provide students with unique experiences they cannot find on campus. Breakers have volunteered in soup kitchens, planted trees, repaired trails, constructed playgrounds, gutted and repaired homes, assisted in elementary school classrooms, painted murals, built bridges, learned first-hand about the prison pipeline, human trafficking, and immigration reform, and most importantly, built relationships with those whom they are volunteering.

 When can I go?

We offer breaks in October, January, March, May and one just for incoming first-years and new transfer students in the July preceding their first semester. See details about all of your options.

 How long are Breaks?

Most are 1 week (leaving early on Saturday and returning late the following Saturday). Infrequently when that is not the case, the leaders will keep the team posted of any changes. The Break in October is shorter, since we only have 2 days with no classes for Fall Break, and leaves late Wednesday/early Thursday and gets back late Saturday. We try our best to make sure you have Sunday to work on homework, do laundry, get to organizational meetings, catch up on sleep, etc.

 Can I sign up with my friends?

You can only register yourself, and registration is on a first-come, first-served basis.

This is a chance to meet other people and expand your horizons, so we discourage groups of friends signing up together. However, if there are multiple spots on a break when you and a friend register, you can certainly take your chances at going on the same break.

 Can my club/org sponsor an entire break?

YES!

We currently offer clubs and organizations the chance to join the Alternative Break Leadership Team to participate in the workshops and prepare a Spring Break just for your members. Spring Breaks are typically for groups of 10-12, and the co-leaders determine how they select their team (i.e. lottery system, application, only officers, all seniors, all new members, etc).

 Do you have a waitlist?

Yes. It is a first-come, first-served process. You register online and it will add you to the waitlist directly from there if the break has filled. You will be contacted if a spot opens up.

Finances

 What are the costs?

Winter, Spring, and May week-long driving breaks typically cost around $300, while flying Spring Breaks range from $700-$1,400 (including some international experiences). Fall Break, typically a 3-day experience, costs around $100.

**Due to COVID-19, we will be hosting local day-long service projects at no cost. You will be responsible to pack your own lunch.

Specific prices and details will be listed on the individual break’s description, so always check there before registering.

 What's included in the costs?

Almost everything: housing, community partner fees, travel, volunteer supplies, most meals, leadership, education, tons of fun, and a t-shirt!

The exceptions are food during travel days (i.e. grabbing lunch at the airport or while you’re driving to/from the community where you’ll volunteer), any souvenirs you find on the community day, and sometimes food during the community day.

 What if I can’t afford to go?

We do not want to turn someone away due to finances. For that reason, need-based scholarships are available.

The first step in the scholarship process is filling out the application (a Microsoft word doc). It will be emailed to every student who registers for a break. Complete it by the due date and email it back to abp@jmu.edu.

Also, your team will participate in fundraising efforts that our office coordinates. We believe it’s about putting in the effort—as long as you do that, you can get an equal share of the funds raised.

Break Roles

 Who makes up the team?

Each Spring Break consists of two student co-leaders, one learning partner and 7-9 participants. For Fall, Winter, May, and New Dukes, they travel with group of 30-50 Dukes.

With large group breaks, everyone stays at the same housing, travels in caravans or sometimes even a larger charter bus, and usually focuses on a similar social concern. However, they still break into smaller group of 8-10 do actually do the volunteer work. Those smaller teams of 8-10 still typically have two student co-leaders, one learning partner and 5-7 participants.

 What is a Learning Partner?

All breaks have a faculty or staff member as part of the team. They participate fully, contributing to group discussions and decisions, like everyone else. Learning Partners add a unique perspective based on their life experience and/or academic discipline. In emergency situations, they serve as an additional resource to break leaders.

If you have any professors, coaches, advisors, or supervisors that you think would be a great addition, please email us and we will see if they’d like to join a team in the future.

 How can I be a part of the Leadership Team?

The Leadership Team has is a very important role and a wonderful community (almost like a student org itself)! The commitment begins with submitting an application in late spring, meeting all deadlines, and participating in the Leadership Team workshops. Keep an eye on our website for the application to go live, or follow us on Instagram (@jmu_csl_abp) or Facebook (JMU-Community Service Learning and ABP) or sign up for our listserv, and we’ll be sure to notify you when that option is available.

Travel/Lodging/Dining

 Do I need to drive my own car?

No.

We take the JMU white vans you see around campus. This way, you can get to know others while traveling, lessen pollution from multiple vehicles, make sure everyone arrives at the same time, and ensure you don’t miss out on epic music playlists. However, if you are over 19 with a good driving record, you may be asked to drive, but it is not mandatory.

If there are any accommodations those vans don’t provide, please let us know (abp@jmu.edu) and we will investigate other options as well.

If your team will be flying, the leaders may reach out to see if team members could help carpool to the airport with their own car (usually getting reimbursed for gas and parking—ask your leaders about those details).

 Should I make my own flight reservations?

No.

We purchase group tickets for the entire team, so one less set of logistics for you! This way if there are layovers and/or delays the whole team still travels together.

 Where will we stay/sleep?

Most lodging accommodations are either provided by the host site or determined by the break leaders. Past Breaks have stayed in tents, a church, a cabin, or in the actual service organization center. Many times it’s in a sleeping bag on the floor, but sometimes there are air mattresses or beds as well.

Sometimes there are separate sleeping areas for students who identify as men and women, but not always. Sometimes it is a requirement.

If any sleeping scenario does not feel comfortable to you, be sure to ask your leaders for more details about accommodations we can make.

 What about meals during the Break?

Food is determined by each Break. Most teams buy and prepare all of their meals. As part of the communal experience, we challenge teams to closely mirror SNAP accommodations by budgeting $1/person/day for breakfast, $2/person/day for lunch and $3/person/day for dinner. It’s fun to meal prep and cook for the whole group creatively while learning more about some of our Alternative Break values. Some community partners and/or housing partners provide meals as part of their role in the break.

Leaders will have information about food allergies and preferences so the team and/or partners can accommodate those.

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