Break Away is a national nonprofit organization that promotes the development of quality alternative break programs through training, assisting, and connecting campuses and communities.

Put simply, we provide the tools and lasting support to foster successful alternative breaks and to help participants learn how—and why—to make the community a priority in their values and choices.

Alternative breaks and active citizenship

An alternative break is a trip where a group of college students engage in direct service, typically for a week. Each trip has a focus on a particular social issue, and immersion in that issue begins long before the trip itself. Students educate themselves and each other, then do hands-on work with relevant organizations. These experiences challenge them to think critically and compassionately—and to understand that there’s no such thing as “not my problem.” Upon return, participants are empowered to make more informed decisions and to take meaningful action that supports a greater good. Through alternative breaks, we hope to foster the personal growth of contributing members of society. Alternative breaks are the "what" of Break Away, but active citizenship is our shared "why."

Our approach

The Active Citizen 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 Components. Alternative breaks get work done that needs to be done. They build capacity with communities that are struggling with social issues. And they make real impact on individuals, too. While Break Away doesn't plan or coordinate trips, we do support the development of high quality alternative break programs through:

  • Membership - We gather and consistently share best practices with program leaders at member institutions through conference calls, monthly State of the Movement memos, and our annual National Alternative Break Survey.
  • Resources - We don't plan trips or make programmatic decisions for our Chapter Schools. We support members' planning through our SiteBank, a searchable database of over 400 community organizations, newly released HousingBank, similar to the SiteBank but with potential housing partners, and we offer other materials online (like the Sample Documents Library) and in hard copy (like the Haiti Compact Report).
  • Student and staff trainings - We believe in the power of student leaders and staff mentors. We embolden and empower students and staff through 1-2-day regional retreats (SLRs) and through our weeklong national experiential trainings, the Alternative Break Citizenship schools (ABCs).