An Alternative Break is a trip experience in which a group of college students engage in direct service, typically for a week. Each trip experience has a focus on a particular social issue, and immersion in that issue begins long before the week-long trip itself, through on-campus orientation meetings. Students educate themselves and each other, then do hands-on work with relevant community organizations. These experiences challenge students to think critically and compassionately--and to understand that there's no such thing as "not my problem." Upon return to campus, student participants are empowered to make more informed decisions and to take meaningful action that supports a greater good. Through the Alternative Break trip experience, we hope to foster the personal growth of contributing members of society. Alternative Break trip experiences are the "what" of our program, but active citizenship is our shared "why."
The Alternative Break (AB) is a student-led program within the Civic and Community Engagement Office that prepares groups of students to collaborate with communities experiencing social injustices, by learning about, providing direct service for, and reflecting on a specific social issue during SUNY Buffalo State academic breaks. Established in 2010, the program hosts 30-50 students a year on AB trip experiences during fall, winter, February, spring, and summer break.
The mission of the Alternative Break (AB) program is to engage student-led teams in hands-on service opportunities with community organizations, while providing opportunities for students to learn about social justice issues, get to know fellow classmates, make an impact, and grow in leadership and teamwork skills.
Alternative Break also offers invaluable leadership opportunities. Student Leadership Team positions and Site Leader positions are the next step in the quest to becoming more involved with this program. All members of the student leadership team receive training and, in return, are equipped with the skills to facilitate trainings, pre-trip meetings, and plan and implement service trips and other events related to organization.
Any SUNY Buffalo State undergraduate or graduate student may apply for and participate in an Alternative Break trip experience. For all trip experiences, beginning in Fall 2018, a new application procedure is in effect.
Step #1: Submit the Alternative Break application, indicating two (2) trip experience selections, by the assigned deadline date at 12:00 a.m. (midnight).
Step #2: Alternative Break program reviews applications. Students are notified within 24 hours of the deadline regarding which trip experience they have been selected for.
Step #3 Students who have been selected for a trip experience have one week to submit a deposit payment to confirm their participation (credit, cash, or check). If a student fails to submit a deposit payment, that spot will be offered to a student on the waiting list. Students experiencing financial difficulties or other extenuating circumstances, but committed to participating, are asked to speak directly with Aurora Schunk, Assistant Director.
Policy Note: Effective spring 2018, no SUNY campus may include questions regarding criminal history on admissions applications. However, admitted students who are seeking campus housing, clinical, field experiences, or internships, and study-abroad programs will be asked if they have been convicted of a felony as part of the application process for those programs/services. Alternative break is considered field experience. For students who may have previously been convicted of a felony, please review the college policy and process.
Below are some of our most frequently asked questions. If you have a question not answered below, please contact us!
During an Alternative Break trip experience, you can expect to be volunteering between 25-40 hours with one or more community organizations. We do our best to meet the specific needs of the organization, so that might mean working on projects such as painting, trail building, sorting donations, or serving meals. Sometimes our projects are "behind the scenes" so full-time staff members are able to devote more attention to their work on the front end. No matter what our project, we are impacting the community organization and learning more about the trip's social issue.
Service projects typically take place all day (8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.). In the evenings, members of the group take turns preparing meals and site leaders lead reflection discussions. There may also be events the group attends in the community.
Where Alternative Breakers stay during their trip depends on the location. While the trip is in the planning stages, the student site leaders search for housing that is free or low cost. That means, typically, students will be staying at community centers or in vacant rooms inside religious centers. Most of the time our students are provided the bare minimum-- a space to sleep (like the floor or a cot), restroom and shower, and kitchen area to prepare food. It's not a Hilton, but it's a safe and humble place to stay!
It depends on the trip and the location. For local area trips (Buffalo and Niagara Falls), we make every effort to utilize exclusively the NFTA Metro system. It's free because students already have a bus pass that is included in their tuition and fees.
If we are out of the area, the students might be using a large conversion van or public transportation. It depends on the location and situation.
Student fees are determined by length and associated costs of the trip related to transportation, lodging, meals, and supplies. Therefore, fees vary from trip to trip. Both the application fee & final payment fee go directly to covering these expenses.
You might see student leadership team members standing in the Student Union Lobby during Bengal Pause selling flowers, chocolates, and baked goods. Our student leadership team helps to organize fundraisers to keep trip costs as low as possible for students.
Please do not let the cost deter you from applying for Alternative Break trip. We believe in the power of fundraising and are more than happy to meet with you to discuss any financial circumstances that might make this opportunity difficult.
No! Each AB trip is unique in its social issue, partners, and projects. Site leaders devote over 100 hours to planning the details of each trip, including coordinating with the community organizations where the group volunteers, housing arrangements, transportation logistics, researching information regarding the social issue, and preparing for orientation meetings and reflection.
AB trips are free of substances for liability and legal reasons, but also because allowing substances can interfere with the group dynamic and a student’s ability to successfully complete volunteer tasks.
The Alternative Break student leadership team began a scholarship fund in the fall of 2014 to assist students who were interested in participating in an Alternative Break trip experience, but were unable, due to the associated cost and fees. Our student leadership team conducts 100% of the fundraising to support this scholarship for their fellow students. Currently, scholarships of $50-$200 are available for students to support participation in domestic Alternative Break trip experiences.
a. must be a matriculated undergraduate or graduate student at SUNY Buffalo State;
b. must be in good academic standing as defined by the SUNY Buffalo State Academic Standards Office;
c. must be accepted to participate in an Alternative Break trip experience through SUNY Buffalo State;
d. The total trip cost of the Alternative Break must exceed $100.
Selection will be based on
a. indication of passion for and/or involvement with social justice issues;
b. completed application materials;
c. demonstrated need for financial assistance;
d. successful personal interview with the selection committee.
Complete the online application and identify a faculty, staff, or supervisor who can submit a letter of recommendation.
Scholarship applications must be submitted by the following deadlines:
Scholarship requests will be reviewed and selected by a three-person panel made up of a member of the Civic and Community Engagement Office staff and two members of the Alternative Break student leadership team.
The panel will review the written application materials and interview final candidates. The decision on awarding scholarship funds will rest with a majority vote of the selection panel.
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