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Alternative Breaks at Cornell

Guest Blogger: Leah Bossom ’17. 
Wondering what it is we Cornellians get up to during breaks? Leah, a PA and ASB/AWB coordinator talks about the amazing opportunity of Alternative Breaks at Cornell. Learn about these unique experiences to grow as a student, citizen, leader, and individual possible through Cornell and get involved in an Alternative Break this year!  

Alternative Breaks: What is it?
Alternative Spring Break, Alternative Winter Break, Alternative Breaks, whatever it is called the concept is the same: become an active citizen through education and service opportunities.
This upcoming year you will have an opportunity to apply for a week-long service trip either over winter break (January 2nd- January 9th) in Belize or one of five trips going across the U.S. over spring break (March 3rd- March 13th). Groups have about 10-15 people including co-leaders, a faculty/staff advisor, and participants.

What do you do?
I got involved with the alternative breaks program my first year at Cornell and it is an experience I will never forget. I applied in the fall and was placed on the Urban Youth and Education trip to Atlanta, Georgia. We got to work with a non-profit youth development program called Create Your Dreams and get an inside look at what school is like in Atlanta. The kids were fantastic and the director of the program was such an inspiration. Kids enrolled at CYD have a 100% high school graduation rate, which is not typical in the area. This organization is changing the odds for students in Atlanta, and they greatly appreciated the extra help with tutoring, activities, and
organizing their space.

This is just one example of what an Alternative Breaks experience looks like, but you can usually do around 40 hours of service throughout the week. That makes a huge impact when you have 10-15 people with you!

What issues can I focus on?
Trips can range anywhere from Urban Youth and Education to Disaster Relief to Animal Rehabilitation. The trip names and descriptions will be available to you at the time of application
so you can choose something that really appeals to your passion.
If you don’t have anything in particular you want to focus on, that’s okay, too! This is an amazing opportunity for you to explore service and learn more about something you didn’t know much about.
Does it cost anything?
Student Senate does a great job of covering costs for us, but we do have participant fees you must pay to have a spot on the trip. For Alternative Winter Break, it is $300 (airfare is expensive) and for Alternative Spring Break it is $100. Not too bad for travel expenses, food, and housing for a week!
Is it a major time commitment?
You will have a few meetings a block with your group to learn about your issue and the area you will be going as well as pre-trip service and fundraising, but for most people it is manageable as your co-leaders plan this according to the group’s schedule as much as possible. All the components are necessary to having a successful and meaningful service trip, so it’s well worth it!
When and how do I apply?
Applications will go out as soon as possible in the fall. AWB applications will probably be out first and ASB application out soon after. The faster we get you placed on a trip, the faster we can
start fundraising! Check social media, especially the Cornell Connects page on Facebook, fliers in residence halls, and check in the Career and Civic Engagement Center if you are confused or concerned.

Applications have questions about the service you have done in the past and why an Alternative Break is something you want to pursue. There are also general information questions about yourself. The application isn’t too time consuming, but the more thought out your answers are, the more of a chance you have to get a spot.
I hope you join the hundreds of Cornell students who have participated in this experience in the past, but when you apply – act fast! There is limited space on trips and we do our best to make
the trips available to everyone. Don’t forget about the participant fees and start saving now!Even if service isn’t something you’ve really considered in the past, it is an amazing experience that
might help you find your passion.

If you have any questions, feel free to email myself ( or Kate Brogan ( or feel free to find me during NSO or anytime during the school year.
Have a great rest of your summer and I look forward to meeting you on the Hilltop in August! -Leah

I went on an ASB trip last spring focused on food systems issues in the New Orleans area and it was one of the best Cornell experiences I have had. Service is such a big part of the Cornell community, and being involved with AWB/ASB is a great opportunity to become an educated, engaged, and active human being.