Northern's alternative break program places teams of college or high school students in communities to engage in community service and experiential learning during their summer, fall, winter, weekend or spring breaks.
On an alternative break, you'll perform short-term projects for community agencies and learn about issues such as literacy, poverty, racism, hunger, homelessness and the environment. You'll learn about problems faced by members of communities with whom you otherwise may have had little or no direct contact. Being completely immersed in different environments enables you to experience, discuss, and understand social issues in a significant way. The intensity of the experience increases the likelihood that you'll transfer the lessons learned on-site back to your own community.
Alternative breaks are a springboard into lifelong active citizenship ... where the community becomes a priority in your life decisions.
Active Citizenship Continuum
The Active Citizenship Continuum is the driving force behind what we do at Break Away, and why it's so important to us that alternative break programs incorporate the Eight Quality Components. Alternative breaks can become much more than memorable volunteer vacations...they can be a powerful catalyst for a transformed worldview and lifelong active citizenship.
Eight Quality Components of an Alternative Break
The following components have been established through our national partner organization, Break Away, to help student leaders move beyond the typical volunteer vacation experience and move participants down the path toward Lifelong Active Citizenship. Each of the following components is vital to providing a quality break experience: without one, the impact is lessened; with all of them developed thoroughly, there is no limit to the power of an alternative break experience.
1-STRONG DIRECT SERVICE: Programs provide an opportunity for participants to engage in direct or "hands-on" service that addresses critical but unmet social needs.
2-ORIENTATION: Participants are oriented to the mission and objectives of both the break program and the host agency or organization with which they will be working.
3-EDUCATION: Programs establish and achieve educational objectives to give participants a sense of context and understanding of both the region in which they will be working and of the problems they will be addressing during the break.
4-TRAINING: Participants are provided with adequate training in skills necessary to carry out tasks and projects during the trip. Ideally this training should take place prior to departure, although in some instances it may occur once participants have reached their site.
5-REFLECTION: During the trip, participants reflect upon the experiences they are having. Applying classroom learning and integrating many academic disciplines should also occur. The site leaders should set aside time for reflection to take place, both individually and in a group setting.
6-REORIENTATION: Upon return to campus, there should be a re-orientation session for all participants where they can share their break experiences with one another and with the greater campus community and are actively encouraged to translate this experience into a life-long commitment to service.
7-DIVERSITY: Strong alternative break programs include participants representing the range of students present in the campus community. Coordinators should recruit, design, implement and evaluate their program with this end in mind.
8-ALCOHOL & OTHER DRUG FREE: Programs must be aware that issues of legality, liability, personal safety and group cohesion are of concern when alcohol and other drugs are consumed on an alternative break. Programs should provide education and training on alcohol and other drug related issues as well as develop a policy on how these issues will be dealt with on an alternative break.