As students begin to plan for Spring Break, there is another option they can take into consideration: The Kernodle Center for Civic Life’s Alternative Break programs. 

They will be returning to communities outside of North Carolina and creating partnerships to cause a lasting impact with their service, no matter how small the task, according to senior Zoë Rein. 

The Alternative Break program provides students with the opportunity to serve in communities outside of Elon over short-term breaks. Applications are open now on Phoenix Connect.

Rein spent a week last year on an Alternative Break serving the Greensboro community. 

“It was amazing getting to work with a lot of the people just in the community who we've never even heard of but then just brought together all this amazing work,” Rein said. 

Students who participate in Alternative Breaks work with a community partner to see how they can best serve the community. Last year, students were placed in the Greensboro area because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this year, students will again have the opportunity to serve outside of North Carolina. This year’s Spring Break trips go to Nashville, Washington D.C. and Asheville. Rein will serve as the student director of Alternative Breaks programming this year.

“Our program, it was a lot more education-based instead of service-based last year just because of the opportunities that were presenting themselves in the timeframe,” Rein said.

Assistant director of the Kernodle Center for Civic Life Autumn Cox said the programs focus on one problem in a community in order to receive a more immersive experience. This year’s  focuses are on homelessness, food security and educational disparities.

“Since you get to really dig into one subject in one location over the course of an entire week, you can really get a lot of deep education but also some experiential education,” Cox said. 

Cox said the students who attend these trips get the chance to reflect on what they have done in their week of service to better understand the world around them.

Sophomore and student co-leader of the Washington D.C. trip Rachel Curtis said she and her fellow student leaders take a half semester class to prepare for the Alternative Break trips. In the class, they learn about leadership, reflection and sustainable service.

Curtis said sustainable service is important to her and the Kernodle Center because they want service habits to continue after the trip. 

“We can change the way that we view service and so it can, I guess change the way that we help people in the future,” Curtis said. “And it's also important to work with other organizations that meet people's needs instead of in the way that they actually are instead of just what they think they are.”

Though the pandemic has altered trips slightly, the biggest changes programs have seen reflect the number of participants. 

“It's been like, just smaller participant crowds and trying to make sure that we're just able to put on as best of the program as we can,” Rein said.

Rein said implementing the sustainable service element can create a difference in communities like Elon in the future, not just where the students travel.  

“We like to think that the service doesn't just stop with Alternative Breaks, but it's just like a short-term way to get people involved,” Rein said. “A lot of that education and training also carries forward, so if they become really interested and passionate about the issue, then they can bring all of that information to further service and especially back to Elon’s community itself.”