Contact Alternative Breaks

1110 Adele H. Stamp Student Union
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742


301-314-2895
alternativebreaks@umd.edu

Spring Experiences (ASB)

*Costs currently listed are estimated and subject to change. All costs include air and/or ground transportation, room and board, meals, and activities.

Food Security in Georgia: Looking for Answers in Hot-lanta’s Food Desert

Atlanta, though famous for its sports teams, musical heritage, and Southern hospitality, is setting an example for cities nationwide on how to address food insecurity as the complex issue it is. Because one in four Georgia residents is food insecure, the Big Peach is abundant in community-led initiatives that make affordable, healthy food available on a local scale and that provide life, housing, and job stabilization services to the diverse population experiencing food insecurity. By serving alongside these organizations, we will begin to develop a more nuanced understanding of food insecurity as intertwined with issues of urban sprawl, suburban poverty, unemployment, and racial inequities. We will delve into the root of the problems surrounding the food swamp that is much of Georgia’s capital city, and grapple with how it exists in our hometown and across the U.S. as well. 

Basic Trip Information:
Location:Atlanta, GA
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $300


Bringing Charm Back to Charm City: Affordable Housing in Baltimore City

There are 16,000 vacant buildings and 14,000 vacant lots in Baltimore and approximately 30,000 people in the city experience homelessness over the course of a year. Access to employment, healthcare, food, and education are all affected by a lack of permanent residence. During this AB experience, participants will serve with organizations such as Christopher's Place Employment Academy and Bea Gaddy Family Center and learn from citizen and government driven initiatives that are bridging the gaps of affordability and accessibility for some of the city's most vulnerable residents.


Basic Trip Information:

Location: Baltimore, MD
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $230


Anything but Bland: Socioeconomic Equity in Bland, VA

Our trip to Bland, Virginia will focus on rural poverty in the United States. Bland, VA, like many rural small towns, suffers from poverty as a result of isolation--isolation from job and education opportunities, isolation from government programs, isolation from resources, and most importantly isolation from the majority of Americans who have neither heard nor care about the town and its people. Rural poverty, unlike urban poverty, is easy for most of us to ignore, especially for those of us who live in a city, because we do not have to see the results of it day after day. Bland, VA, a town most of us have never heard of, is one of the many places across the nation where we find this “hidden” poverty. The question many of us want to ask people in these towns is, “Why don’t you just move?” But why should people have to move from their homes just because the area is small and unknown to those of us who have grown up in a city? Despite the economic problems and isolation, Bland, VA has a vibrant culture and amazing people. We plan to work with the Bland County government and Bland Ministry Center, Our service with community partners will depend on what the town identifies as the need while we are there; which in the past has involved building projects, sorting donations, and helping local residents with home projects.

Basic Trip Information:
Location: Bland, VA
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $300


The Backyard Bay: Environmental Health, Justice and Conservation in the Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay is the gem of the East Coast: covering 64,000 square miles, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is the largest estuary in the United States and acts as an ecological oasis to living organisms. The Bay is sanctuary to thousands of species of plants and animals, and it serves as an economic and recreational hotspot for the region. However, since the 1970s, the Chesapeake Bay’s ecological livelihood has been threatened by pollution, nutrient run-off, invasive species, and mass-production agriculture.

On this trip, we will have the opportunity to experience the beauty of the Bay and explore the importance of this natural wonder, along with tackling the issues that put the Chesapeake Bay at risk. Through collaboration with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we will engage in hands-on field programs to actively combat the negative effects of agricultural, industrial, and human influence on the area. Participants will also be able to learn about the policies and restoration efforts in progress and will gain perspective on how the biodiversity of the Bay has impacts on our everyday lives. 

Basic Trip Information:
Location: Chesapeake Bay, MD
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $185

Thank you to the Chesapeake Bay Trust  for making the Alternative Weekends program possible! As a recipient of a 2016 CBT Mini-Grant, we are able to expand our partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation through an Alternative Spring Break experience and 6 Alternative Weekend experiences.


Socioeconomic Equity: Chicago, IL

With nearly 3 million residents, over 100 neighborhoods, and 237 square miles of land, Chicago is the third largest city in the world and known for its love of art, 311 city services, beaches, parks and restaurants. Nonetheless, 21.4% of city residents live under the poverty level, which is higher than the national average of 15%. Of the 311 city services Chicago provides, many of them work to alleviate the issue of urban poverty, however poverty continues to plague the “city of big shoulders”. On this trip we will explore and analyze the countless reasons why poverty persists in the large, culturally, economically, and technologically rich city of Chicago. We will aim to answer the questions: What’s not working in “The City That Works”? What can we do as individuals, and not only temporary members of this community but also as members of society to change the causes and effects of urban poverty? We will be working closely with local community centers including the Chicago Salvation Army, Deborah’s place, Cornerstone Community Outreach Center, and more. We will get first-hand experience and work closely with those affected by urban poverty, those working on the front-lines to combat urban poverty, and those who are tirelessly creating lasting solutions to this social issue.

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Chicago, IL
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $400


Education Reform in Chicago: Understanding Urban Education in America

The educational system in Chicago has a long and fragmented past. Schools in thecity are predominately black and Hispanic with majority of the students from low ­income families. Resources in urban communities and schools are very limited, in addition to social problems such as gentrification, poverty, and much more, this results in the low performances observed in urban schools. Just recently the Chicago Public Schools had the biggest school closing due to under performance and under ­utilization, closing nearly 50 schools. School closings in certain parts of Chicago are relatively frequent and are part of the school board’s plan to reform the educational system in the city. As a result many charter schools and military schools are created. These schools have little restrictions in order to improve education, however they face the same problems experienced by public schools. 

Participants on the trip will get to experience what education is like in a charter school in an urban area. They’ll get to interact with the students of Muchin College Prep and learn more about what life is like for them, while experiencing what it is like for the teachers. Muchin College Prep is a high performing public charter high school in the heart of Chicago. It is open to anyone, regardless of a student’s test scores or a family’s ability to pay. Schooling in and around this city and many other cities is unequal and during this trip we will be working to understand this achievement gap,its causes, and its effects.

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Chicago, IL
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $400


Strengthening The Next Generation: Childhood Healthcare and Education in South Carolina

In a South Carolina classroom, one third of the students in the class are overweight - in fact, according to StateOfObesity.org, South Carolina ranks as the 2nd worst state for obesity in middle and high school children. Furthermore, approximately 16% of South Carolinians are uninsured, adding complexity and context to this healthcare problem. Luckily, many organizations in the community are examining the many factors contributing to childhood obesity, such as community and children’s health, access to nutritional education and resources, and lifestyle choices. Among health disparities, race and ethnicity contributes to this problem the most (AmericasHealthRankings.org). Due to grassroot and state efforts, South Carolina has come together to combat this multifaceted issue, moving from 45th unhealthiest state to 42nd in the past five years. Participants on this trip will get a firsthand look at how socioeconomic factors and urban environment contribute to children’s health. We will volunteer with local organizations such as Healthy Columbia to observe challenges and assets of today’s healthcare system.

 

Basic Trip Information:

Location: Columbia, SC
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $275  


Poverty and Possibility in Paradise: Youth Development and Education in the Dominican Republic

Focusing on community development and the education systems in the Dominican Republic, participants will gain an understanding of the current educational structures within the country and some of major struggles faced by the country.  Community organizations, the DREAM Project and Project Las Americas, and individuals that we will serve alongside are making incredible strides in creating a bright future for youth in the Dominican Republic. With the DREAM Project, we will explore the Montessori-based education system and work alongside members of the Barrio Blanco community in Cabarete to develop and beautify their neighborhood. With Project Las Americas, we will explore the public education system in the Dominican Republic and also work to empower young girls and college-aged women in the Puerto Plata area.

By immersing ourselves in the culture, landscape and customs of the country, we hope to continue to form meaningful relationships and solidarity with partner communities. Our work in understanding these social issues, in particular those of the educational system, will rely on the participants’ commitment to attend pre- and post- service events, team meetings, and other activities. By participating in this experience, students will not just be going on a trip, but they will be joining a team - the {DR}eam Team! 

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Cabarete, Dominican Republic
Dates of Trip: March 17-24  
Cost: $1200  


Cash, Coal, and Culture: Appalachian Communities in Harlan County, KY

Harlan County, KY used to be one of the largest coal-mining towns in America. The coal industry, which had been the very core of the town’s economy since its beginning, has left a declining job market and strained resources behind. The county, like many other Appalachian counties, has had to seek solutions to unemployment, food insecurity, struggling educational systems, and aging populations amidst a history of socioeconomic isolation. Harlan County is a self-sufficient community of warm and supportive people just trying to keep their struggling economy alive. This year’s AB trip will seek to address issues in education inequities, health disparities, and economic struggles of its residents in the wake of the fallen coal mining industry boom. This region will have a lot to offer as we journey to Harlan, KY for Alternative Spring Break 2016.

Basic Trip Information:
Location: Harlan, Kentucky
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $275


Confronting the “Stable Community Problem”: Relationship Violence in Knoxville, TN

Domestic violence is referred to as a “stable community problem” by professionals -it never really increases, but it also never really decreases, either. Relationship violence cuts a steady swath of destruction through all walks of American life, across race, socio-economic status, educational levels, religious groups, age, sexual orientation, and even gender. This experience seeks to understand the many facts of and the pervasiveness of domestic violence, while exploring ways to end the abuse. We will be working extensively with Knoxville’s Family Justice Center, an umbrella organization for all groups working to stop domestic violence. 

During our time in Knoxville, we will volunteer with the area YWCA, tour various emergency shelters, observe a domestic violence docket at a local courthouse, visit the area prison. We hope to interact with an learn from domestic violence survivors and our dedicated community partners so that we may hear their stories and learn from their experiences.

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Knoxville, TN
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $250


Silence the Stigma: Innovative Approaches to HIV-AIDS Healthcare in the Big Apple

As of 2013, approximately 35 million individuals worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS, marking it as one of the most common infectious diseases worldwide. This AB experience is designed to explore and to educate participants about the social and cultural phenomena surrounding HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on the provision of long-term healthcare for individuals with the disease. We will be partnering with the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center- the first long-term skilled nursing program in New York dedicated exclusively to caring for people with HIV/AIDS. Since its founding, the 156-bed unit has grown to become a nationally recognized center of excellence and one of the largest programs of its kind in the country. Few healthcare facilities have responded as creatively and with as strong a commitment to addressing the special medical and social needs of people with HIV/AIDS. 

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: New York, NY
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $300


Pride, Power, and Progress: LGBTQ Rights Beyond Marriage Equality  

For over a century and a half, New York City has been a major center for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer life. Today, a number of organizations and initiatives continue to advocate and provide support to the LGBTQ community on the local and national stage. During this experience, participants will learn about the intersections of LGBTQ equity, youth homelessness, racism, and classism. We will serve and learn with organizations such as the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Project Hospitality, and The Door . Participants will explore their own identities while connecting with diverse members of the LGBTQ community in NYC to hear their stories.  

 

Basic Trip Information: 

Location: New York, NY
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $300

**A special thanks to the Novak Family Fund, LGBT Equity Center, and The One Project for support of this AB experience!


The Revitalization of Public Education in Philadelphia's School District

Philadelphia is a city with a vibrant culture, deep historical roots, and a school system that has seen a lot of change in the last decade. A state takeover of the school system occurred in 2001, and at the end of 2008 a new strategic plan, IMAGINE 2014 was implemented. The plan strived to build “a school system in which all students succeed, families have many quality choices, the staff is great, adults are accountable, and world-class operations support the entire enterprise.” Over the past decade, the school system’s standardized test scores have been climbing and the six-year graduation rate has hit a record high. At Tilden Middle School, AB participants will spend the week in classrooms supporting teachers and students and facilitating after school activities through the Education Works program. This experience will foster learning and dialogue around state and local governance, socio-economic status, and other factors outside of the classroom that continue to influence the public school system and students' performance.

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $275


Discovering the Lakota Nation: Identity, Culture and Empowerment in Pine Ridge, South Dakota

For centuries the Lakota people have celebrated their rich heritage with traditional craft, festivals, and religious worship in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The second-largest Native American reservation, Pine Ridge, is home to over 15,000 Lakota people and stretches over 2.8 million acres (larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined!). 

Yet amidst cultural diversity lies deep-rooted oppression, poverty, and marginalization. Over 80% of Pine Ridge residents are unemployed and the average per capita income is $4,000. Diabetes, heart disease, tuberculosis, and infant mortality far outpace national averages, and the Pine Ridge community continues to struggle with teenage suicide, alcoholism, and high incarceration rates. In collaboration with Re-member, participants will engage in service activities from building bunk beds to assisting with home repairs. Our team will be immersed in the unique culture, language, and tradition of the Lakota people and become partners in the fight for equality and empowerment.

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Pine Ridge, SD
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $1100


The Myth of the Melting Pot: Examining Refugees and Immigrants in Nashville

 Nashville is a city rich in culture with a large population of immigrants from over 86  different countries including Somali, Bantu, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burma, Cuba, Afghanistan, Burundi, and Palestine. For the past few years, most of the refugees coming to Nashville have been from Somalia, fleeing from constant warfare and political  instability in their home countries. By serving alongside the Nashville International Center for Empowerment, Center for Refugees & Immigrants of Tennessee, and Justice for our  Neighbors, we will learn about the complexities of immigration and refugee resettlement. By engaging with community members and learning their stories, we hope to build authentic relationships and solidarity.

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Nashville, TN
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $385


Terps Helping Turtles: Rescuing and Rehabilitating Sea Turtles on the Brink of Extinction (co-sponsored with Honors-ILS)

Topsail, North Carolina is located near the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. Its waters are warm and shallow and host many sea turtles year-round. The beaches provide nesting sites for females and estuaries serve as developmental habitats for young aquatic animals. North Carolina hosts five of the seven species of sea turtles around the world. The population of these species of sea turtles are declining rapidly due primarily to human activity (entanglement in fishing gear, marine debris, boat collisions, decline in suitable nesting sites, etc.) and natural causes. Although humans are the main threat to the well-being of these turtles, we can also do so much to save these populations of sea turtles from extinction.

At the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital, we will engage in activities that help care for the admitted sea turtles and aid in the maintenance of the new sea turtle hospital. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to engage in other conservation related activities both within the hospital and the surrounding community. Participants will interact with many community partners to learn about dangers to sea turtles specifically and threats to aquatic ecosystems as a whole. 

Basic Trip Information: 
Location: Topsail, NC
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $320

**Please note, this AB experience is for students in the Honors-Integrated Life Sciences Program.


Modern Day Slavery: Education and Service on Human Trafficking in Washington D.C.

 

Human trafficking is a business that is incredibly profitable, generating approximately 30 billion dollars annually, and is extremely harmful for the 21 million people estimated to be victims of trafficking. Unfortunately, the Washington D.C. community is just one of the many areas that are fighting against human trafficking within their own neighborhoods. During the DC. experience, we will have to opportunity to learn about human trafficking as it relates to local and international communities. This experience will be centered on educational sessions with community partners like vital voices and free the slaves, which have successfully promoted the growth of international communities vulnerable to trafficking. students will also have the opportunity to serve organizations that work to eliminate factors known to increase individuals’ vulnerability to trafficking. In the past, this experience has worked with organizations such as Sasha Bruce and the Covenant House. Through education, service, and reflection, our goal is to raise awareness about human trafficking, its nature, and how it affects victims while also empowering participants to serve as advocates in their own communities of influence.

Basic Trip Information:

Location: Washington, DC
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $250


Balancing the Scale: Childhood Nutrition and Wellness in Huntington, West Virginia

It’s no secret that our nation is suffering from an obesity epidemic. What many people do not realize is that many of the most common chronic diseases are diet and weight-related, namely heart disease -- the number one killer in America. Not only are adults suffering from these diseases and taking years off of the end of their lives, but as the age of obesity onset gets lower and lower, the prevalence of weight-related illnesses in children increases, as well. 

Huntington, West Virginia has received a lot of attention after being rated the most obese city in America by the Center for Disease Control in 2008. Local organizations, clubs, and farms are actively working to promote healthy lifestyles around the city. Participants will partner with community-led organizations such as The Potager, Huntington’s Kitchen, and the Family Childcare Food Program on projects related to promoting health and wellness among youth. They will also reflect on and discuss the root causes of childhood obesity and begin to think about possible interventions for this social issue.

Basic Trip Information:
Location: Huntington, WV
Dates of Trip: March 17-24 
Cost: $225