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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

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 attend weekly 2-hour Break Leader training sessions in the fall semester. Leaders continue to meet in the first half of the spring 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 break in case of accident or emergency

How to be a Break Leader

Weekend Break: 

Weekend Break Leaders lead breaks within approximately 4 hours of JMU for the weekend (Friday-Sunday). If you are interested in becoming a Weekend Break Leader, keep an eye out for upcoming applications for future weekend breaks.

Spring Break:

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. 

Applications for Alternative Spring Break Leaders will be due in spring, check our website for updates in March. Previous Alternative Break Program experience is not required to lead either break.
First-time leaders should download and complete the New ASB-AJB Leader Application.
Returning leaders should complete the Returning ASB-AJB Leader Application.

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 or Winter Break, download and submit the New Break Proposal Form.

May Break:

This break will consist of 56 students, faculty and staff. We will split into small groups made up of 7-8 student participants, 2 student co-leaders, and a faculty/staff Learning Partner. The Learning Partner participates as a team member and is not responsible for the leadership or logistics of the break. Two student coordinators are responsible for selecting and training small group leaders as well as for communicating with the community and housing partners.

If you are interested in becoming a May Break Leader, applications will be due in fall; check our website for updates in late October.

Small Group Leaders Responsibilities:

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

  • Attend six planning and training meetings
  • 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 community partner (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
  • Participate in the Community Send-Off

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 at 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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