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Alternative Breaks

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Connecting with Community, Learning About Complex Social Topics

Our winter and spring alternative break trips are designed to connect students with community members through engaging, experiential service and learning opportunities. These hands-on experiences prompt learning about community social topics, encourage self-understanding, and inspire commitment to future action.

Included in all Weeklong Service Immersion Trips

Alternative spring break trips are open to undergraduate and graduate students of any year or major. Trips range in cost between $100-700 (includes food, lodging, and transportation).

Need-based financial assistance is available.

Applicants are asked to rank trips based on their interest level in each trip. Those applying before the priority deadline of 12/2 are more likely to be assigned to one of their top choices. Following 12/2, students will be placed on trips on a rolling basis depending on trip availability.

Questions? Contact, Graduate Assistant, Brooke Cassada-Maple, at bmaple@vt.edd or 540-532-5677. If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, please contact Brooke during regular business hours at least 30 business days prior to the trip departure date.

Leading trips, exploring topics you care about

Our student leadership teams coordinate all VT Engage alternative break service trips. Our leaders are passionate about service, social justice, and inspiring change. They work closely with peers, VT Engage, and community partners to coordinate community-driven service trips. Leaders are trained to develop engaging, learning-centered reflections for each trip.

Throughout each service experience and group meetings, they explore their passion for service and the social topics they care about. Our leaders coordinate a range of service programs and have opportunities to take on increasing responsibility as they progress through the program.

COVID-19 restrictions may impact leading trips for the year.

Our leaders have the unique opportunity to develop their leadership capacities through the lenses of service and social justice. Through hands-on experiences and group meetings, leaders become more knowledgeable about best practices in community engagement and service-learning.

As they develop reflection facilitation skills, leaders learn how to engage in meaningful discussion about complex social topics. Our leaders are trained to cultivate sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with communities and teach trip participants to do the same.

Leaders are encouraged to venture out of their comfort zone as they learn with and from a team of thoughtful, fun peer leaders. Our goal is to help student leaders recognize their own capacity to be change agents, then equip them with the knowledge and tools to be engaged citizens both during college and throughout their lives.

Leaders are expected to:

  • Attend a new leader orientation in April.
  • Attend the two-day retreat each September.
  • Commit to a yearlong term as a student leader.
  • Attend weekly group meetings throughout the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • Commit to develop their leadership, reflection, and trip management skills.
  • Commit to co-lead or lead VT Engage trips the academic year.

Engaging, learning-centered curriculum

Leaders attend meetings focused on developing new skills and building impactful service experiences for their peers. Throughout the program, leaders will be immersed in learning more about best practices for community engagement and trip coordination while taking a critical look at service and social topics.

Each semester, our leaders will focus on a different set of topics. The curriculum is designed to build knowledge and expertise as students’ progress in the program, with the goal of preparing students to become mentors for new leaders.

Current Trips

Disaster Relief - Panama City, Florida

Cost: $500-600

Hurricane Michael had a devastating impact on the Florida Panhandle in 2018. Michael not only brought high winds and heavy rain to the area but had an estimated 60,000 homes damaged and 22,000 people displaced. One of the areas hit hard by Michael was Panama City Beach, Florida. Thousands of homeowners in Panama City Beach do not have the funds or resources necessary to rebuild. SBP is a non-profit organization that assists with disaster relief and recovery. Originally, organized to assist after the 2006 Hurricane Katrina, SBP has expanded their efforts throughout the country to assist communities who’ve been impacted by natural disasters. On this trip, participants will work with home repair projects and engage with homeowners in the Panama City area. Additionally, participants will gain a better understanding of the process of disaster relief and recovery work.

This trip may require lifting between 5-25 pounds, standing for long periods of time, operating power tools (with supervision) and climbing of ladders.

Environmental Conservation & State Parks - James River State Park, Virginia

Estimated Cost $150

The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to 38 state parks which includes more than 500 miles of trails and access to Virginia’s major waterways. State Parks provide a unique way to engage and reconnect with nature. State Parks are also a rich way to engage in history alongside outdoor activities including hiking, biking, horseback riding, geo-caching, and a multitude of other things. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that we are working to understand the distinct ecosystems and ensuring we are doing our part in conservation efforts.

On this trip, participants will learn more about conservation of the Virginia State Parks system. Day-to-day activities will include light maintenance projects, trail construction/maintenance/ and rehabilitation, habitat restoration and other projects identified by the State Park staff.

Activities may require some light lifting and easy to moderate hiking abilities. Participants will also be outside for long periods of time.

Food Justice - Cedar Grove, North Carolina

Estimated cost $225-325

One in six individuals in the United States struggles with food security issues, which involves issues related to regular access to affordable, healthy, safe, and culturally appropriate food. Community farming is one measure that promotes collaborative relationships, health education, and food access.

Participants on this trip will partner with a community farm in North Carolina in order to delve into the roots of food justice and better understand how community gardening can affect local food systems.

Activities may require standing for long periods of time, significant bending, lifting and carrying between 0-10 lbs., and being in outdoor garden/farm working conditions for long periods of time.

Environmental Conservation - Hendersonville, North Carolina

Estimated cost $225-325

Cultural and environmental richness and diversity are at the heart of the Blue Ridge in western North Carolina (WNC). Conserving Carolina works to protect this richness and diversity for both nature and people. 46,000 acres of mountains, foothills, rivers, and farms have been protected to date. Their work goes beyond protecting land, as they aim to engage communities, advance climate crisis solutions, promote equity and diversity, and increase financial resiliency. Through this multifaceted approach, Conserving Carolina envisions a future where communities focus first on protecting natural resources.

Participants will partner with Conserving Carolina to learn how humans can be environmental stewards while also enjoying the resources our planet provides. Expected work may include trail maintenance, invasive species removal, and litter cleanup.

Activities may require some light lifting and hiking for extended periods. Participants will be outside for long periods of time.

Social Justice and Advocacy - Selma, Alabama

Estimated Cost $550

Selma, Alabama is known to many as the site of events which sparked the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but its history has not stopped there. Fifty years later, The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth, and Reconciliation (Selma CNTR) was established near Edmund Pettus Bridge to address the violence and conflicts that still afflict Selma and the nation to this day. Selma CNTR works to address the root causes of physical, mental, emotional, economic, political and racial violence with the goals of institutionalizing solutions to systemic violence and the building of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Beloved Community.

Participants will work with Selma CNTR on a range of projects including collecting and transcribing oral histories at the National Voting Rights Museum, city beautification projects, voter registration and mobilization, community education, and many more. Participants may also have the opportunity to receive training on Kingian Nonviolence.

Activities may require light lifting and light physical exertion.

Past Trips

  • State Parks Conservation with James River State Park in Gladstone, Virginia
  • Environmental Conservation with Conserving Carolinas in Hendersonville, North Carolina
  • Community Development with Hurley Community Development Center in Hurley, Virginia
  • Disaster Relief and Recovery with SBP in Columbia, South Carolina
  • Disaster Relief and recovery with United Saints Project in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Disaster Relief and Recover with SBP in Panama City, Beach Florida
  • Disaster Relief and Recover with SBP in New Bern, North Carolina
  • Community Development with Hurley Community Development Center in Hurley, Virginia
  • Environmental Conservation and State Parks with James River State Park in Gladstone, Virginia
  • Food Justice with Anathoth Garden and Farm in Cedar Grove, North Carolina
  • Animal and Environmental Conservation with Virginia Zoo and Eggleston Garden Center, Norfolk Virginia
  • Refugee Rights with International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
  • National Parks Conservation with Appalachian Trail Conservancy in the Smokey Mountains
  • Community Development with Appalachian Service Project in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
  • Community Development with Hurley Community Development Center in Hurley, Virginia
  • HIV/AIDS Resources with GMHC in New York City, New York
  • Food Justice with EcoCity Farms in Baltimore, Maryland
  • National Parks Conservations with Appalachian Trail Maintainers in Sharpsburg, Maryland
  • Disaster Relief and recovery with SBP in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Community Development with Appalachian Service Project in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
  • Sustainability with GreenWorks in Asheville, North Carolina
  • Incarceration and Re-entry Justice with OAR of Richmond and Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Virginia and Richmond Virginia.

Requests for accommodations & other questions

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, welcome! Please contact Jes Davis at or 540-231-6947 at least 30 business days before the scheduled trip date during regular business hours to discuss your request(s).

All other questions about our alternative break and weekend trips may be directed to Jes. We look forward to having you participate in our programs!