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Alternative Break Program

An “alternative break” is a general term for a student-led trip that includes education, service, and reflection. Alternative breaks began on college campuses in the late 1960s; there are now over 1,000 alternative break programs at schools across the United States. Alternative breaks at Marietta College involve students in meaningful service while providing them opportunities to learn about and experience diverse cultures and to engage in reflection, analysis, and discussion about important social issues. Alternative breaks have been part of the student experience at Marietta College for well over a decade. In the last few years, alternative breaks have been led by the McDonough Center’s Office of Civic Engagement (OCE), in partnership with Student Life, Campus Involvement, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
OCE annually organizes two types of Alternative Break programs - an international service trip during the winter break, and a domestic program during Spring Break. These programs help OCE fulfill its mission - "to empower students to be active leaders in their communities, promote critical thinking about social justice issues, and develop citizens committed to a lifetime of public service."

DESTINATIONS: During the Winter Break, we alternate between Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. We team up with Bridges to Community, a nonprofit community development organization with a mission to bring people from different cultures together.  During this 10-day service-learning trip, students work directly with community members building houses and schools. Through these projects, students learn about their role as global citizens in an increasingly interdependent world.
Click HERE to read about the 2014 IAWB trip to Nicaragua (Group Picture Above).
During Spring Break, we lead a domestic trip. The topics change based on different contacts and opportunities.
RECENT DESTINATIONS: students have served nationally in Marietta and Parkersburg, WV; New Orleans, LA; Pine Ridge, SD; and Birmingham, AL. In March of 2015, OCE worked with the Office of Student Life, Diversity and Inclusion, and the McDonough Leadership Conference to create and lead a new alternative break trip that traced the history of the American Civil Rights movement.  This trip was different from many previous alternative break experiences. While service was included as a key component, the bulk of the Civil Rights trip was spent on education and reflection activities—connecting students to each other, helping them truly understand the history of the movement, and empowering them to be advocates for justice and equality in their own communities. The trip participants presented a reflection on their experiences to a national audience during the April 2015 McDonough Leadership Conference.

Pine Ridge, South Dakota
Working with an organization called Re-Member, the Marietta contingent spends their days fixing up local homes and at night meeting with Lakota elders learning about the history of the Lakota people. They also visit Wounded Knee, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills and Crazy Horse. The Pine Ridge Reservation – the eighth largest in the United States – is among one of the nation’s most impoverished communities.
To read about the 2014 ASB-Pine Ridge trip, click HERE.

Marietta, Ohio
The ASB in Marietta Program was developed through the student organization, Pioneers in Hardhats, and is supported by the Office of Civic Engagement. During the week, participants learn about the history of our region and do community service at the same time.

Our Alternative-Break Trip Philosophy
Students in the alternative break program meet several times during the semester before their trip to get to know each other, learn about the history and context of the communities in which they will be serving, and collaboratively set expectations and goals for the experience. These pre-trip meetings are facilitated by a pair of student trip leaders—volunteers who apply for the chance to take a role in organizing and facilitating the trip. Student trip leaders receive extensive training and mentoring to prepare and support them in their role, making the experience of leading a trip not only a great practical experience in leadership, but also an opportunity for personal growth and transformation.
Students who participate in alternative breaks value the connections they form both with fellow students and with the communities in which they serve. Consequently, OCE makes it a priority to organize return trips to some destinations. Returning to a service site gives students a chance to truly build relationships and investment in the community, and also benefits the host community by supporting ongoing development and sustained impact.

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