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Alternative Breaks & Weekends

A group of smiling people stand in a large garden plot with many sprouting seedlings.

Connecting with Community, Learning About Complex Issues

Our weekend, fall break, and weeklong service immersion trips are designed to connect students with community members through engaging, experiential learning opportunities. These hands-on experiences prompt learning about community issues, encourage self-understanding, and inspire commitment to future action.

Check out what we're up to for spring break 2020!

These trips are open to all undergraduate and graduate students. The trip fee covers transportation, housing, and meals throughout the trip.

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, as well as a way to engage in history alongside outdoor activities.

On this trip, participants will learn more about conservation of the Virginia State Parks system. Projects will include light maintenance projects, trail construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation, and habitat restoration.

These activities may require some lifting up to 15 pounds and easy to moderate hikes. Participants will be outside for long periods of time.

Hurley is a town located in the beautiful mountains of Southern Virginia. Once an integral part of the coal-mining industry of Central Appalachia, town residents founded Hurley Community Development, Inc. (HCD) as a way to address the needs of the region’s declining population and increase of poverty. HCD works to improve the quality of life for the residents of Hurley and the surrounding Knox District by offering a home repair program and food bank to help support residents who wish to remain in their hometown.

On this trip, participants will learn about the social and economic issues facing the Knox District through home repair projects and personal engagement with the local community.

Activities may include roof repair, deck construction, insulation/drywall insulation, painting, etc. This may require heavy lifting and carrying between 5-25 pounds, working with hand or power tools, and standing for long periods of time.

The Appalachian Mountains cover more than one hundred miles of land within North and South Carolina. Ensuring these lands are preserved for future generations is important for the survival of these eroding mountains. Participants on this trip will work with Conserving Carolinas, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting and stewarding land and water resources.

During this trip, participants will have the opportunity to learn more about the importance of land trusts, conservation easements, and building trails for public recreation. Participants will work on habitat restoration projects, trail maintenance and building, and litter cleanups.

Activities may require some light lifting (up to 15 pounds) and easy to moderate hikes. Participants will also be outside for long periods of time.

In 2018, Hurricane Michael was one of the strongest land-falling hurricanes to ever strike the United States. Nearly 375,00 individuals across 26 counties in Florida were asked to evacuate their homes, including in Panama City, which was hit hard.

On this trip, participants will partner with SBP, a nonprofit organization that assists with disaster relief and recovery. Participants will work on 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.

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

To sustain a biodiverse and healthy earth, it's important to learn how to decrease our ecological footprint, which measures human impact on our environment. One way to decrease that footprint is to develop an understanding of "earth literacy", which explores human connection to our environment and changing our behaviors to integrate sustainability into every aspect of human life.

On this trip, we will partner with the nonprofit Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center to learn more about social ecology as well as sustainable and natural living. Participants will have the opportunity to explore their relationship with the earth through organic gardening, nature hikes, and learning at the Earth Literacy Center. Please note: the focus of this trip is on learning about earth literacy, with some service projects throughout the week.

Activities may require standing for long periods of time, significant bending, lifting and carrying up to 10 pounds, working in outdoor garden/farm conditions for long periods of time, and hiking 3-5 miles throughout the week.

Requests for accommodations & other questions

If you are an individual with a disability & desire an accommodation, welcome! Please contact Jessica Davis, assistant director for leadership and civic engagement, at or 540-231-6947 during regular business hours by February 6, 2020 for spring break trips or one month before the start of a weekend trip. All other questions about alternative break and weekend trips may be directed to Jessica.