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Alternative Spring Breaks Make a Difference

story by Erin E. O’Brien, Ph.D.

photos courtesy of Outdoor Leadership Academy participants

While it’s a holiday season, spring break is right around the corner. Traditionally viewed as the time for high school and college students to head to the img_9090beach, there are an increasing number of opportunities for students who want to have fun while including something to help their careers or others. These opportunities are typically called “alternative spring breaks,” even though they can still involve traveling to someplace new to relax with friends or make new ones. The prices associated with these types of trips are often on par with more traditional spring break trips, but can be considerably less depending on the destination and the accommodations.

Most colleges and universities offer a variety of travel courses for this time. If you’re a high school student, the dates may not match up well, but some of these allow high school students to earn college credit so they are worth investigating. Locally, Dixie State periodically offers field courses over their spring break that count toward college general education requirements, especially in the sciences. These include trips to local national parks based out of their recently remodeled Tanner Amphitheater.

The DSU Student Association also organizes humanitarian trips with recent destinations as close as Las Vegas and Kanab and as far away as New Orleans. Southern Utah University also offers a variety of humanitarian trips through their Community Engagement Center to domestic locations and Central America. Both universities offer service trips through their pre-medical programs (Rural Health Scholars at SUU and DSU and Dixie Pre-Medical Alliance) to help pre-professional students (pre-med, pre-dental, pre-pharmacy, pre-PA, you get the idea) who need service to apply to programs after graduation.

Other Service-Oriented Trips

img_9144If these don’t appeal to you or if you aren’t enrolled in college, but still want to experience an alternative spring break, many non-profit groups provide similar opportunities. Both United Way and Habitat for Humanity will accept volunteers for travel projects as long as they meet certain requirements. United Way works with individual volunteers aged 18 or older. Habitat for Humanity will accept volunteers as young as 16, but only works with groups of five or more individuals. The locations of these trips vary, but they are all domestic. Cost depends on the destination and the activities, but seems to range from about $250 to $600 for these two organizations. These costs do not include travel to the location, but they do include housing and any material you might need for your activities. United Way includes food as well as housing.

If you’re more into spending spring break outside, the American Hiking Society offers “volun-tours,” service trips that combine day hiking, trail conservation, camaraderie, and nature exploration. These trips are all domestic (including Puerto Rico) and only cost $195 (not including travel or food). Like the humanitarian trips, these include activities for work and relaxation. Because these can be physically demanding, they offer a variety of accommodations and difficulties for their trips.

If none of these options fit your needs, there are some amazing non-profit organizations that help to coordinate a wider array of options. One well known program is Break a Difference (BAD). They hold programs for college students over winter and spring breaks and host approximately 30,000 volunteers a year at sites across the country in areas ranging from after-school programs, food banks, military families, and community gardens with on-site costs of $395 for the week.

So there are lots of options out there for adventurous students looking for something out of the ordinary. Get out, see the world, and do some good.

For more information on the programs mentioned in this article, check out these websites:img_9093

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