Mason’s Alternative Break (AB) programs are collaboratively designed by students, community organizations and staff to address social issues through education and community service. Alternative Break teams face challenging issues such as discrimination, inadequate housing, hunger, and poverty. Students emerge from these experiences transformed with new ideas, perspective, and experiences that inspire active and engaged citizenship. Students work in partnership with host organizations on community-driven goals, focused on a particular social justice topic.
Through exploration and immersion into the social issue long before the trip starts, students are able to interrogate the root causes of social issues in a way that allows them to engage compassionately and think critically. Upon their return, students are encouraged to engage in their own communities through informed, meaningful action.
As a founding member of Break Away, we infuse our program with the eight components identified as qualities of high quality Alternative Break experiences: Strong Direct Service, Education, Orientation, Training, Reflection, Reorientation, Diversity, and Alcohol/Drug-free. Break Away’s continuum of individual development from Volunteer to Active Citizen informs our approach to trip preparation and design.
Alternative Break is a peer-to-peer leadership program. Team leaders are selected through an application process, and are provided training and support through the planning process. While some trips may have faculty or staff who serve as learning partners, students lead all alternative break experiences. Expectations of leadership include participation in a program retreat and weekly meetings for ongoing support through trip development.
Students are responsible for payment of trip fees. Most students fundraise individually and with their team to defray costs. SAIL does not want finances to be a barrier to participation and supports by advising fundraising initiatives and establishing individualized payment plans. We are constantly searching for new funding opportunities to make our experiences more affordable for participants.
For students who wish to deepen their learning, a credit option is available. Through individual inquiry and critical reflection papers, students engage in a closer examination of the implications of their service and the social issues addressed through the trip.