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Penn State Alternative Breaks

The Penn State Alternative Breaks (PSAB) program provides opportunities for students to learn more about themselves, others, and the world around them through service. Our program offers service trips throughout the academic year including service weekends, fall alternative breaks, alternative winter breaks, and alternative spring breaks. Each program is designed to encourage personal growth and reflection, promote civic engagement around a social issue, and immerse participants in a new community.

If interested in learning more, contact the PSAB Executive Board at pennstatealternativebreaks@gmail.com

Our Mission

PSAB facilitates student-led service trips throughout the academic year focused on promoting social justice, fostering active citizenship, and building community.

Cost

With the support of the Office of Student Leadership and Involvement and the Student Initiated Fee, we are able to make trips affordable to students at only $25.00 for service weekends, $75.00 for fall alternative break and $100.00 for alternative winter break and alternative spring break. This fee covers the cost of food, housing, transportation, and registration for our community partner organizations. If funding may be a barrier for you to participate, please contact PSAB's advisor, Ellery Lea, at ekl5383@psu.edu to learn about possible payment plans and partial or full fee waivers.

2022 - 2023 Programs

Full descriptions are listed in the drop-down menu below. Follow us on Instagram @psualtbreaks and contact pennstatealternativebreaks@gmail.com to be added to our listserv!

You may be required to sign a waiver to be able to participate in PSAB service trips

Click here to see open applications to participate in or lead an alternative break!

Day of Service
  1. PSAB will host a service day in State College on Saturday, October 8 supporting the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. A sign-up link will be posted in September
  2. Topic: community development - green spaces and gardens
Fall Service Weekends
  1. PSAB will host a service weekend in Grasonville, MD from Friday, October 7 - Sunday, October 9 supporting the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center. An application link will be posted in early September.
  2. Topic: environmental conservation and restoration
Fall Alternative Break
  1. PSAB will host fall alternative break in Allentown, PA from Friday, November 18 - Tuesday, November 22 supporting Project SILK and Valley Youth House

  2. Topic: youth development and LGBTQ+ youth services

Alternative Winter Break
  1. PSAB will not be able to offer an alternative winter break this year; thank you for your understanding.

Alternative Spring Break
  1. Alternative spring break trips will take place from Saturday, March 4 - Saturday, March 11. More information coming soon about service sites!
Spring Service Weekends
  1. More information coming soon!

Leadership Opportunities

Site Leaders will lead alternative breaks with a co-Site Leader, which involves facilitating discussions, monitoring activities and service, and communicating with the PSAB Executive Board and the trip's service site. You do not have to have been on a service trip before to apply. Responsibilities include:

  1. Attending trainings

  2. Educating yourself on your assigned trip topic

  3. Hosting pre-trip orientations

  4. Facilitating discussions

  5. Monitoring activities and service

  6. Establishing relationships with trip participants

  7. Communicating with the PSAB Executive Board, service site, and faculty/ staff trip advisor

Faculty & Staff Partners

A faculty or staff member attends each alternative break as a faculty/ staff trip advisor. These partnerships are essential to providing strong and safe learning opportunities for students. Faculty/ staff trip advisor attend the trip at no cost and participate in daily service, reflection, and educational activities. Other duties can include:

  • Driving a University owned 15-passenger van or mini-van
  • Handling a University purchasing card for food and activity expenses
  • Supporting student Site Leaders with conflict resolution and difficult conversations
  • Sharing any social justice knowledge about the topic students are working with
  • Assisting in any emergency situations and assessing risk
  • Having fun with students while learning and engaging in the community
     

 If you are interested in becoming a faculty/ staff trip advisor, please email PSAB's advisor, Ellery Lea, at ekl5383@psu.edu.

** You may be required to sign a waiver to participate

***Faculty/ staff trip advisorare expected to fully participate in service, so they will have limited time to complete responsibilities for work.  Faculty/ staff trip advisor must be full-time exempt status employees and should speak with their supervisor regarding adjustments to workload.

 

FAQs for Alternative Breaks

What does the process look like for applying to an Alternative Break?

There are separate application processes for fall, winter, and spring break trips. Participants will fill out an application and then, if selected to move on, will be asked to interview for the program. During Interviews, participants will learn more about the trips, do group activities, and be pulled out individually to answer quick questions with Site Leaders for the trips. This process is done to best achieve diverse trips with multiple perspectives, identities, and years in school that will provide a strong learning environment for everyone involved.

How many people go on trips?

Our trips will have no more than 12 people each. Typically, there are two student Site Leaders for each trip, and then  one or two faculty/ staff trip advisors.. We typically get many more applications than there are spots, so we create a waitlist and if someone drops from a trip, we will work to fill it with someone on the waitlist.

What will we be eating throughout the week?

Some Community Partners include meals during your trip and others require that we cook our own food...either way you will be able to share any dietary restrictions/preferences that you have with your Site Leaders, and we will accommodate them to the best of our ability. For groups cooking your own meals, you will work together as a team to come up with a menu for the trip. If there are specialty items you need (like you want red bull to drink or only eat a specific kind of granola bar) please plan to bring those items yourself. Our food budget is based on $10 per person/day and living modestly. This covers nutritious meals, minimal snacks, and occasionally a meal in a restaurant. You will not be permitted to run to Starbucks or go grab fast food throughout the trip. There may be an opportunity for those things on your community immersion day, but plan to bring with you specialty snacks or just rough it for the duration of the trip.

Will there be time for me to do homework during the trip?

Your schedule is going to be very busy throughout the trip. There is not much downtime or free time. After reflection in the evenings, you will have time for showers and everything before bedtime, but this is typically a time where participants are hanging out, getting to know everyone better, and journaling. If you have a large project/paper/deadline that is coming up immediately after the trip please plan accordingly as you won’t have much time, if any, to work on those things during the trip.

What does a typical day look like?

The days are going to be long. Expect to be up early, sometimes needing to be at your service site by 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. Usually, you will do service for most of the workday, breaking for lunch, and then everyone will eat dinner together. Following dinner, there will be time to reflect about the day, processing what service you did and what you have learned. Again, there is not much free time throughout the trip except in the early morning hours and after reflection in the evenings, so please plan accordingly.

Will there be time for me to explore the area during the trip?

Each trip has some built-in “free time” during the experience. This time has traditionally been so that we can explore museums and learn about the local community more. This time is not designed for you to go shopping, visit friends, or for you to explore on your own. You will be required to be with at least one other person at all times and will likely be asked to stay as a group as well. Each trip decides what their community immersion time will look like, but this isn’t an opportunity to plan something special to do during the trip. Reach out to your Site Leaders if there is something specific you are hoping to see and they may be able to fit it into the trip.

Do I have to sign a waiver to participate?

Yes, you will be required to sign waivers from the University, from the Penn State Alternative Breaks program, and potentially from your housing/ service sites. In order to participate, you will have to sign these waivers. Please read the documents carefully before signing. We also have a photography waiver in order to take pictures and use for promotion for the PSAB program.

I am having difficulty/am unable to pay for my trip. What do I do?

We have financial assistance available to participants on a case by case basis. Please email our Program Advisor - Ellery Lea, ekl5383@psu.edu to set up an appointment to talk about any difficulty you may be having. We offer payment plans, lessening payments, or complete fee waivers.

I live near our housing/ service site, can I just stay there after the break?

We understand that some of you may live nearby where you are doing service over the break. The Office of Student Activities has an Alternate Transportation Waiver that you will need to fill out if you plan to not take the transportation provided back to State College with the group. You will need to provide information on how you plan to get to home (or wherever you are going) this would include information about who may be picking you up, what time is your bus/plane/train and how are you planning to get there. We will not be able to drop you off at the train station, etc. so please plan accordingly.

My family/friends live near our housing/ service site, can I visit them during the trip?

There will not be time on the trip to visit local friends and family in the area you are serving. There may be an opportunity to invite someone to have dinner with the group, but this should be discussed with Site Leaders before the start of the trip. There is a very tight schedule and each individual is required to be actively participating throughout, which also means no taking a break from service to visit friends/family.

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Alternative Breaks
Penn State Student Affairs
Student Leadership and Involvement
Location

103 HUB-Robeson Center
University Park, PA 16802