Alternative Breaks (Alt Break) is a student-led program hosted by the Center for Careers, Life, and Service.

Alt Break is part of a national movement to engage students in a variety of communities through service.  At Grinnell, they take place during spring semester. By living and working in the communities they serve, students develop new perspectives, enhance leadership skills, and participate in educational and hands-on community service projects.

Alt Break is composed entirely of students and trips are designed and led by a core leadership team.

Dedicated to the Grinnell College value of social responsibilities, Alt Breaks is based on six applicable values:

Issue-Based Exploration: Alternative Break encourages student leaders to plan trips around a current social issues instead of singular location. With an emphasis toward hands-on service at the center of the experience, trips bring participants into contact with perspectives beyond the classroom.

Simplicity: A simple lifestyle entails more than mere abstinence from material indulgences and conveniences; it requires a proactive approach to one’s duties, studies, and relationships. By practicing simple trip living, participants will be more receptive to new perspectives and values, exhibit greater cross-cultural awareness, and feel heightened appreciation for services and community. Guided by the principle of simplicity, participants typically sleep on the floor, eat sandwiches for lunch, and minimize their use of other electronic devices.

Community: Alternative Break support inclusiveness, camaraderie, and mutual support among leaders and participants. The program values diversity among both participants and trip topics while emphasizing a shared value for service among its participants.

Engaging with Local Community Members: Participants live and integrate themselves within the community being served. Trip teams seeks local hospitality through modest housing as near as possible to the work site, explore the community, and seeks interaction with local community members and organizations to support the team’s understanding of the issue.

Education/Reflection: The trips allow participants an educational experience by contextualizing their understanding of the specific issue on which their trip is focused and the region in which they are working. Alternative Break further the understanding of an issue through pre-trip experiences, on-site debriefing, and reorientation with the campus community.

Life-Long Service: Alt Break hopes to instill the value of life-long service with all participants in the Alt Break program. Upon return to the Grinnell Campus community participants that participants will act as a model for these values throughout their lives.

Connecting with Alternative Breaks

Propose a Trip

Students can learn about proposing a trip through GrinnellShare (login required) or by contacting Keira Wilson, Assistant Director of Service and Social Innovation.

Participate in a Trip

Interested students can learn more about participating in and applying for an upcoming spring break trip through GrinnellShare (login required).

Community Partners

Community partners play an important role in the success of Alternative Break at Grinnell. The program seeks to connect local community partners with trip participants as well as service and understand communities nationally.

Please contact the Center for Careers, Life, and Service if you are:

  • A service organization looking for an alternative break group to join your community for a week.
  • Currently a Grinnell Alternative Break Community Partner and need further details on trip logistics, funding, or other concerns.
  • A local Grinnell Community partner and want to connect or reconnect with our alternative break teams.