2016 Annual Report

Welcome, friends, to Break Away’s 2016 Annual Report! Soak up these earnest words and fancy numbers to your heart’s desire, or skip right to the core of what alternative break programs accomplished this last year with our infographic. 2016 was big for the Movement: a deepened commitment to supporting positive community impact, a more thorough approach to infusing alternative breaks with justice work, and an increase in the quantity and quality of student leadership and involvement. And (!) Break Away turned 25. (More on that later.)

In our last report, the 2016 - 2018 Strategic Goals were revealed to the people. Though it’s a safe assumption that the 2015 Annual Report is still imprinted on your brains, here’s a refresher of Break Away’s current focus:

  • Deepening organizational commitment to diversity and social justice
  • Supporting lifelong active citizenship
  • Creating stronger, more compelling community impact reporting
  • Improving membership and core trainings to schools, communities, and beyond
  • Truly influencing the community engagement and community-based learning fields

Read on, curious minds, for some updates on our progress in the past year!

Our Biggest Year of Training Yet


It’s good news to keep breaking our own record, right? Well, this year, we (re)broke our record for the number of students and staff trained. Through the Alternative Break Citizenship schools (ABCs), regional and national gatherings, and single institution trainings, Break Away trained nearly 2,000 students and staff at four ABCs and 35 other retreats and conferences.

2016 was also the grand debut of an updated curriculum after hours of researching, writing, getting feedback, crying (kind of joking), and re-writing over the course of 2015. We’re proud of it and also, delighted about the ways our content and structure is ever-evolving based on innovations within the Movement. We also introduced a brand new workshop - Rethinking Allyship through Critical Service-Learning - to further the conversation around community-centered approaches to justice-based Service-Learning. Our newest workshop, Utilizing Hyphens for Maximum Effect is also forthcoming.

Break Away’s national reach and collaborative approach increased this year as we facilitated trainings with state Campus Compacts in both Utah and South Carolina; co-hosted retreats for institutions in the Mountain West and with K-12 educators from the American Montessori Society; and presented at IMPACT, the Active Citizens Conference, and the Great Lakes Alternative Breaks Conference.

Over the summer, the staff drove thousands of miles (coast to coast - twice!) to host four successful Alternative Break Citizenship schools. These week-long conferences remain spaces for student and staff leaders from around the nation to convene - learning about and contributing to each other’s programming while participating on an alternative break.

At each of the ABCs, we committed to addressing urgent and relevant issues - in communities we had never been and in others where we have established long-term partnerships: Sexual Violence Prevention and Response at Emory University; Preserving Native Land, Nationhood, and Culture at the University of Idaho; Ten Years Later: A Neighborhood Recommitment with Project Homecoming in New Orleans; and Restoring Ecosystems for Future Generations in partnership with Grand Canyon National Park.


Growth of Break Away and the Movement

30 institutions joined (or, re-joined after a hiatus) the national alternative break network in 2016 - bringing the total number of Chapter Schools to 231. Another record broken! We don’t mean to brag but we’re seriously proud of this community.

1Augustana University, Baylor University, Bellarmine University, Brandeis University, Colby College, Drexel University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Henderson State University, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Johns Hopkins University, Johnson & Wales University – Providence Campus, NC State University, Southern Oregon University, Southern University Baton Rouge, Stetson University, Stevenson University, Tennessee Wesleyan University, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, The University of Akron, University of California of Los Angeles, University of Mary Washington, University of New Hampshire, University of North Texas, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rhode Island, Washington State University, Waubonsee Community College, Whitworth University, and Wilkes University.

National Alternative Break Awards

While some say they’re greater than the Golden Globes, we humbly say that the National Alternative Break Awards are an opportunity to highlight the remarkable work done by students, staff, community organizations, and programs around the nation. In case you missed it, we rolled out the red carpet for Vanderbilt University as Program of the Year, Allison Heisel as Active Citizen of the Year, Bryan Goers as Staff Person of the Year, Harvest Farms as Community Partner of the Year, and Grand Valley State University for T-shirt of the Year.

Connecting to Communities, Prioritizing Impact

In 2016, Break Away furthered the strategic directive of developing compelling community impact reporting. Thanks to Katey Gama - ABCs grad, friend, and Sr. Solutions Specialist, Break Away pursued a LinkedIn for Good grant to further our training for community organizations and better assess the impact alternative break volunteers make in communities. With LinkedIn’s support, Break Away offered four in-person trainings for volunteer coordinators - with plans for another in Spring 2017 and hosted a National Conference call: Year-round Involvement with Alternative Breaks


Remember when the SiteBank only existed on paper, as a real catalog? (Few among us have an actual living memory of those good old days.) The now impressively digital SiteBank - serving as a connector of campuses and community organizations for high-impact alternative break experiences - includes over 600 organizations! And, after launching in 2015, the HousingBank continues to grow - now at 130 organizations committed to providing alternative breakers with safe, affordable housing.annual-report-chapters-3

Supporting Active Citizens and Program Development

Break Away's National Conference Calls create opportunities for institutions to present on best practices and share resources with one another - this year the call series grew in numbers and range of content from requests made by schools in the annual National Chapter Survey. 16 institutions presented on topics ranging from keeping alumni involved post-graduation, to building real student ownership, to facilitating dialogue, and more. 456 participants convened on these calls to engage in conversations surrounding alternative breaks and deepening their understanding of active citizenship. (This isn’t even counting the numberless late night listeners who heard our calls after the fact! The recordings live forever and can be found in the Forums - eternally archived like those emails with coupon codes you don't need now, but will certainly come in handy someday.)

Speaking of calls... in the Spring, Break Away surrendered to the pressure of neo-technology to host our first ever livestream with David Lubell from Welcoming AmericaCan you believe it? Neither can we. But it happened, and there’s proof of the compelling conversation regarding active citizenship and the future of New Americans.2

In February of 2016, after re-envisioning our blog, we landed on the title Break Away Blog: Read and Act Weekly. More than just a string of significant words, this sharpened focus serves as a challenge to put forth material that will push readers (and writers) to think, reflect, and act on a regular basis. We’ve heard rumors of success: our musings being used for pre-trip group discussion, dinnertime fodder with family members, or in-class assignments - read and see!

Active Citizens as Philanthropists

The Movement persisted with generosity in 2016 and with it, our deepened admiration for the folks who support Break Away’s fundraising efforts. It was a thrill ride as current and former staff coaxed friends, family, and lovers of Break Away to contribute. Thanks to this community of active citizens, over the course of the year we received affirmations and encouragement from 292 people and raised $25,950 from individual donations in 2016. Almost half of our contributions were $50 and under - following Break Away's strategy of engaging new donors and encouraging micro donations! We showed off some of our best jokes to date and even resurrected that old High School classic threat to shave off our staff’s hair if a fundraising benchmark was hit. 


A Growing and Changing Staff

There were bittersweet farewells to two of our full-time staffers last year - Program Directors Anna Dausman and Shannon Morrissey. In February of 2016, Anna left to pursue an MS in Public Administration from the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania while also serving as the new Director of Operations at the Center for Social Impact Strategy. In September, Shannon headed to the University of Chicago to pursue a Master's Degree in Social Science, researching the role public art plays in neighborhoods of Atlanta (this means she comes to visit every now and then - for that, we’re grateful).

As always, the goodbyes meant a few hellos. In February, we welcomed Nisha Kavalam, former Break Away Programs Intern, originating from the alternative break behemoth at University of Utah. We also brought on our first-ever official Extern! Board member extraordinaire, Mike Weinstein, joined us for the spring semester - assisting with our analysis of the National Chapter Survey data, dipping our toes in the proverbial waters of CRM software, and raising the overall level of office fanciness.

Aside from the ABCs, the summer months bring Programs Interns who add an extra bit of life and hip music taste to our small team. This past summer, we welcomed four Programs Interns: Jake Crouse, University of Maryland; Joshua Kezar, Southern Methodist University; Kalia Harris, George Mason University; and Meghan Foley, College of William & Mary. We were also able to devote some time to furthering our Community Impact assessment work with the aid of interns - including our very own former Executive Director turned intrepid MBA student, Jill Piacitelli, who returned to help us envision a deepened curriculum. annual-report-staff-3

Collaborative Work with our Board of Directors

Break Away welcomed Bethany Glass, Vanderbilt and ABCs graduate, and Lucas Hernandez, Rollins College graduate and 2013 Active Citizen of the Year, to the Board of Directors. The first in-person meeting of 2016 was held in the Spring at Emory University where Break Away staff recounted successes from the first few months moving forward Break Away's strategic initiatives. In November, Break Away staff and Board reconvened in Washington DC just days before our 25th Anniversary Celebration. Here committees worked on projects as varied as pursuing national HousingBank partnerships, to improving organizational efforts with Salesforce, to overhauling our annual budget development. After all that shop talk, we prepared for the weekend’s festivities.


25 Years of Active Citizenship; 365 Days of Celebration

Break Away’s 25th anniversary was a celebration at every turn. The culmination of our year-long party happened in our nation’s capital with staff, board members, alumni, community partners, family, and friends. Honored guests spent the weekend captivated by the education, service, and of course, reflection, that deepened our understanding of neighborhood vitality in a corner of DC.

Some highlights from that memorable weekend:

  • the kick-off event featured stories of neighborhood transformation from residents of N Street Village;
  • alumni shared their favorite alternative break memories in the StoryCorps recording booth;
  • the celebration dinner brought everyone together with compelling stories from featured guests, including Lori Collins Brewer, mother of Break Away’s late former Executive Director, Jake Brewer. She shared with us what it means to truly leave a legacy by furthering Jake's plans to Cultivate the Karass;
  • Bianca Vazquez of the Steinbruck Center, also celebrating their own 15th anniversary, offered wisdom around how to be both thoughtful and intentional as a person entering a new community;
  • the debut of 25 Years of Active Citizenship - our short video that makes Leo DiCaprio’s performance in Titanic seem less poignant; and
  • an appropriate amount of tear-jerking reunions. (What else could you expect?)

We were overjoyed to be joined in the commemoration of our 25th Anniversary by folks in-person and through the kind words sent of support and love. So much has happened since 1991! It truly has been an incredible 25 years, and our celebration left us excitedly anticipating the many more to come.