Alt. Break offers week-long, immersive community-engaged learning programs traveling to Washington, Southern Oregon, and California during OSU’s spring break!
During these multi-day, overnight programs, groups of 10-12 students immerse themselves in one of three Pacific Northwest communities to learn its historical, cultural, and political background. Students engage in a variety of direct service projects, educational conversations and presentations, and reflective dialogue with leaders and change-makers in their respective communities. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the complexity of social issues, reflect on your own assumptions, and develop your ability to lead for social change, all while connecting with fellow OSU students!
For questions regarding Alternative Break, contact us at [email protected] or 541-737-3041.
For full consideration, please apply by the priority deadline. Participants who apply by the priority deadline will be notified of their application status no later than the end of Week 5 of winter term.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all 3 Alt. Break teams are full. Applicants who are not assigned to a team after the priority deadline will be added to a waitlist. Students are welcome to continue applying until the final deadline.
Explore the complex, multi-faceted factors at play impacting food and housing security in San Francisco, CA. Learn about houselessness issues in major urban areas including relevant short-term relief and potential long-term solutions, and gain a behind-the-scenes understanding of the community organizations addressing these issues. Participants will complete service projects centered on addressing food and housing insecurity, while meeting and working alongside local visionaries who actively address these issues in their communities. The trip will include hands-on direct service work such as preparing and serving meals, and assembling wellness kits that may include toiletry, hygiene, and/or harm reduction materials. We will also engage in educational sessions with local community leaders, deeply reflective street retreats, and team dialogue and activities. On our community immersion day, we will explore San Francisco by electing group outings that may include visiting Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Pier 39, Chinatown, shops, and/or other options.
Please note: Participants will do a fair amount of walking (1-2 miles on some days) and take public transportation around the city to travel between projects and sessions. Additionally, some food packing projects may ask participants to work with common allergens (e.g. peanuts). We will work to find suitable accommodations to the best of our ability.
Uncover the human face, cost, and impact of land acquisition, settler colonialism, and immigration by exploring the influx and interplay of different cultural groups in the Yakima Valley, WA. This program offers a wide variety of experiences and narratives. We focus on the experiences of: Native Americans from the Yakama Nation, Filipino-Americans, the Latino/a/x community, undocumented migrant workers and their families, those experiencing housing insecurity, children, economic disparities, food insecurity, influences of agriculture, environmental justice, and more. Each day is filled with vitally important information that assists in the understanding of the systemic roots of oppression and marginalization in the Yakima Valley, while recognizing the resilience of communities co-existing together. Through direct service work, educational sessions with community leaders, and team reflective activities, we will examine the buried roots of communities’ historical relationship to the land and explore implications for the present and future of different cultural groups in the region. During our community immersion day, the group will elect outings that may include a group hike or park visit, a community festival or fair, a visit to Yakama Nation Cultural Center or Yakima Valley Museum, or exploring historical art murals.
Lodging: Retreat center or Air Bnb
Discover the pressing environmental conservation and restoration issues in the Ashland, OR area. Participants will complete direct service projects that may include creek restoration, planting native species, mulching, invasive species removal, garden-based projects, trail building/maintenance, and other environmental restoration/conservation projects with a variety of community organizations. We will meet with local environmental leaders to learn about threats to the natural environment, local factors impacting natural habitats and ecosystems, renewable energy, waste reduction, and various sustainability topics. Participants will explore power and privilege in the environmental movement, and examine connections between environmental, social, economic justice. This trip will include many physical, hands-on direct service projects, educational sessions, and team reflective activities. On our community immersion day, we will explore Ashland by electing group outings that may include hiking, attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, visit shops, and/or other options.
Please note: participants will need to bring outdoor clothing that they don’t mind getting wet/dirty including rain jackets, hiking/outdoor boots, hat, gloves/mittens, and extra layers. Ashland can have unpredictable weather at this time of year including cold temperatures, rain, and even snow, so participants should be prepared to do outdoor service projects in these conditions. If you do not have access to any of the outdoor gear listed above, let us know and we will share resources. This program is more physically laborious than the other programs due to the nature of the service projects. Participants will be encouraged to take breaks and rests as needed throughout the experience.
Lodging: Willow-Witt Ranch Meadow House (local net zero energy ranch focused on sustainable farming)
Participating in Alt. Break is a significant time commitment. Participants must be available for all of the program dates and times listed below.
Team Meeting #1: Monday, February 27 | 5:00-7:00 pm
Team Meeting #2: Monday, March 6 | 5:00-7:00 pm
Team Meeting #3: Monday, March 13 | 5:00-7:00 pm
Send-Off: Friday, March 24 | 5:00-7:00 pm
Program Dates: Saturday, March 25th-Saturday, April 1st
Reorientation: Friday, April 7 | 5:00-7:00 pm
During Team Meetings, you'll get to know the other 8-10 students on your team and the two student staff co-leaders for your group. You'll learn about the community you'll be traveling to, the program itinerary, and other logistics! The Team Meetings also cover teambuilding and leadership topics such as values and leveraging your strengths and other's strengths in collaborative work.
The Send-Off is an exciting dinner event where all 3 teams come together the night before leaving! And at Reorientation, everyone will come back together after the traveling program to reconnect, reflect, and take what they've learned from the experience into their lives at OSU and beyond!
Additionally, you will be asked to commit 3-4 hours total outside the times listed above to review materials and resources (articles, videos, etc.) that include background information about the history and social issues in the host community.
Please let us know if you have any extenuating circumstances that might cause you to be unavailable for certain dates, as exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
We strive to set a program fee that accurately reflects the value that the Alt. Break program offers to student participants. We charge a program fee to recover some of the cost for offering the Alt. Break program, and as an added layer of commitment from participants.
The $200 program fee covers the following:
Program fee waivers are available to cover a portion or all of the program fee on a sliding scale based on a "contribute what you can, take what you need" policy.
We are committed to equity and access. We hope the program fee does not create undue stress due to your personal circumstances. We believe that no student should be excluded from participating due to financial barriers. What's most important is that the students who are selected to participate are fully committed to the Alt. Break program.
At the end of the application, you will be able to indicate the amount of the program fee you are able to pay, and we will waive the rest, no questions asked.
Please note, if you are in a position to contribute the majority or all of the fee, it will allow us to ensure we can offer program fee waivers for students who need it most into the future.
No payment is due at the time of application. Final payment due dates will be communicated to students who are selected to participate.
The Alt. Break experience is centered on team building, learning, relational leadership development, inclusivity, and community building. To create the most meaningful experience for yourself, your teammates, and our community partners, we ask that you be engaged to the fullest extent possible throughout the entire program by upholding the following commitments.
Alternative Breaks are often physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging as a result of the immersive nature of the program. The experience is both challenging and rewarding due to long days spent completing service projects and educational sessions, which often require physical labor, dialogues, and reflection activities on social issues over the course of a 5 to 6 day period. Participants are asked and encouraged to take responsibility for their wellbeing during the trip by planning ahead to prepare themselves as best as possible for the experience and making needs known to the team and Alt. Break Leaders so accommodations and plans can be made that account for the needs of all team members. Participants will complete a self-care planning activity to support this process.
To participate in the Alt. Break program, you will be asked to do ALL of the following:
In addition to the required protocols above, it is highly recommended that you do the following to prioritize the health of all program participants and to reduce the likelihood of a positive COVID-19 case(s) during the program.
Protocols for handling potential positive COVID-19 cases during the program will be shared with students who are accepted into the program.
If you have any questions about these required protocols, please contact us at [email protected] or 541-737-3041.
If you have extenuating, unexpected medical, academic, or family/personal circumstances that are out of your control and need to cancel your participation, you may be reimbursed for any expenses that Community Engagement & Leadership can recover. The emergency must arise before the program starts to receive any refund. Students will be asked to provide a signed request for any partial refund that summarizes the extenuating circumstances.
Please communicate any need to cancel as soon as possible so we can work with you. If you or Community Engagement & Leadership is able to identify a replacement participant that meets trip criteria, a full refund may be possible.
If accessibility accommodations are needed in order to participate in the program, please contact us at [email protected] or 541-737-3041.
Please contact us as soon as possible and preferably no less than one month in advance of the program dates due to the immersive nature of the experience.
The Alternative Break program at Oregon State University dates back to 2010. Site locations largely developed out of personal connections and student leader interests in the early years to establish programs in Yakima, Washington (established 2010) and San Francisco, California (established 2012). Additional program locations including Ashland/southern Oregon and Warm Springs, Oregon (established 2013) were developed with a desire to cultivate deeper connections within the state of Oregon, meet known community need, and maintain sites within driving distance of the OSU Corvallis campus. The Warm Springs program was created with the specific intent to maximize the community knowledge and connections within OSU Extension Services across the state and facilitate student exposure to the impact and work of Extension Services. Program expansion is a goal moving forward. Additional program sites may be selected and developed in ways that balance diversifying the social issues/causes examined within the program and existing relationships between the community and OSU.