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Alternative break program at ISU

Written by on January 29, 2023

NORMAL, Ill. – The Center for Civic Engagement at Illinois State provides students with the opportunity of engaging in humanitarian efforts over the spring break. 

These trips consist of local, national, and global service to help meet the needs of communities. Students can volunteer to help build homes to address affordable housing, feed those facing food insecurity, and more. Alternative Breaks Coordinator Mackenzie Dowling established the goal for this program through the CCE.

“Our goal is to take groups of students over break to serve in another community, either in the US or international,” said Dowling. “We partner with a community to hear their voice, let them take the lead, and collaborate with them.  While students are there and participating in that service, they’ll have time to learn about the location that they are in.” 

A unique element in this program are the roles the students play in it’s organization and execution.

“One of the biggest pieces of the alternative breaks is that they are student-led,” said Dowling. “Each trip has multiple student leaders who go through training and take on a leadership role during the trip.”

Dowling encourages students to go out of their comfort zone when selecting a program.

“I always encourage people to be as open as possible, to say that they are willing to go on as many experiences as they are interested in. We try to have a wide variety of options to make it appeal to as many people as possible,” stated Dowling.

The alternative spring break program has a storied history of helping underdeveloped communities for over 20 years. This program also exposes students with many career and networking opportunities. 

“For one, you’re getting to serve in the community and learn about different people, cultures, and perspectives,” said Dowling. “You’re also working collaboratively and making new friendships.  Many students have come to me to talk about the lasting relationships they have made on these trips.”

Dowling also claims that while the opportunity is excellent for building a viable network of peers, it will also set participants aside from their peers when it comes time to build a resume. 

“Companies now are looking to see that you’re passionate about helping others, they want to see community involvement,” stated Dowling.  “It also teaches students skills, a lot of the time these communities lack proper resources, so students must learn patience and flexibility.”

Applications are currently being accepted for this program through the Center for Civic Engagement up until Feb. 17.