Program offers break options

Credit: Alexandre Kaspar/ Credit: Alexandre Kaspar/

With the spring semester a third of the way done and spring break in a mere three weeks, many students are beginning to plan what they are going to do or where to go during their breaks.

For those who are service-minded and want to be productive during break, Carnegie Mellon offers an alternative break program. Established in 2006, the Alternative Break student organization allows students to “plan, develop, organize, and realize domestic and international alternative break trips, expanding their knowledge through cooperative organization, service learning, workshops, and excursions,” as stated in its constitution.

Many students place great value on community service. “I do community service because I feel that I need to give back to a community that’s done so much for me. It doesn’t take that much to participate in community service; one little action can make a big impact,” said Cora Goldston, a sophomore social and decision sciences major and a member of the co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega.

The Alternative Break program offers a different way for students to spend their time off, Goldston said, “It would be a really good use of my time, as opposed to sitting at home and doing nothing. It gives me the chance to do something good.”

The first trip hosted by Alternative Break was to Bay St. Louis in Mississippi with the goal of helping clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Alternative Break focuses on building relationships within its organization and with the other local and international organizations it partners with.

This past year, a group of 15 undergraduates traveled to Monte Cristi in the Dominican Republic in conjunction with the nonprofit organization Orphanage Outreach. The group volunteered at a local orphanage and taught English in Dominican grade schools. Alternative Break participants have also traveled to Peru, Louisiana, and Ecuador. The group will be travelling to Ghana this break.

Alternative Break aims to connect students with different communities and cultures. “I did a food drive in my high school. I really enjoyed giving back to the community, knowing that people would have a better Thanksgiving,” said Anne Dirkes, a sophomore mechanical engineering major. “I also helped Carnegie Mellon’s SafeWalk program, which was also really great. It isn’t as direct as community service, but it still gives back and keeps our campus safe. I would definitely like to keep giving back to the Pittsburgh community throughout my college years.”

The organization is open for all Carnegie Mellon students to join. For those who want to help, but have other plans for spring break, Alternative Break also accepts any donations. For more information, visit the group’s website.