Student Engagement

Alternative Breaks

ISU Alternative Breaks Mission: To inspire and activate thoughtful community through diverse service opportunities and to grow as lifelong community collaborators.
For more information, contact us at


Apply Now to be a Site Leader for the 2024-25 School Year Alternative Breaks!

What is Alternative Breaks?

The Alternative Breaks Program began in 2008 at Iowa State University. The ISU Alternative Breaks Program gives teams of students the opportunity to take part in service in communities across the United States during both Fall and Spring break. Students engage in short-term service with community agencies and learn about various social issues within the community. 

To participate on a service trip, interested students must submit an application during the Fall semester to attend a Fall or Spring Break Service Trip. Students will then be asked to participate in an interview and indicate interest in which service trip they would like to engage with. Students selected to go on service trips will be expected to attend pre-trip meetings to become familiar with the service they will be engaging with, the community they will be serving, and to also get to know the team they will be serving with. 

If you are interested in participating in a service trip or want to learn more, you can fill out the application form, here, or reach out to for more information! 

Participant Application

  • Fall Trip Application Deadline: Tuesday, October 1

  • Spring Trip Application Deadline: Monday, February 3

Fall 2024 Trips (~November 22 - 26)

Coming Soon! Please check back for our Fall Trip Information!

Here is where the Fall Service Trips went in 2023:

  • Richmond, Illinois to serve with Mainstay Therapeutic Farm
    • Mainstay Therapeutic Farm is an organization that is dedicated to working with children and adults with physical, developmental, emotional, and social challenges through adaptive horseback riding. Participants on this service trip will be assisting in various tasks around the farm. Service projects may entail caring for the animals, landscaping and fence repairs, working in the garden, faculty maintenance, designing and building a guided meditative nature trail, etc.  
  • St. Louis, Missouri to serve with LifeWise 
    • LifeWise is an organization that helps individuals at all stages of life (infant-seniors) achieve economic well-being by providing high-impact, relationship-based programming and by addressing systemic barriers to their success.  Participants on this service trip will be assisting with the set up and prep for their Holiday market, working in their thrift store and food market, and assist in landscaping projects. They will also get the opportunity to engage with the individuals impacted by LifeWise in various aspects throughout the service trip. 


Spring 2025 Trips (~March 15 - 23, 2025)

Coming Soon! Please check back for our Spring Trip Information!

Here is where the Spring service trips went in 2024:

  • Moab, Utah- Arches National Park
    • Participants will engage in environmental and conservation service projects such as cleaning and maintaining the trails and wildlife within the National Park. 
  • Louisville, Kentucky- Hand in Hand
    • Participants will engage in safety and accessibility service projects such as building wheelchair ramps, sturdy porches, or porch railings. 
  • Memphis, Tennessee- Girls Inc.
    • This service trip will work with Girls Inc. of Memphis. Participants will work with their programs on promoting leadership and advocacy among Memphis girls in the program. 
  • Cincinnati, Ohio- Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition
    • Participants will engage in service projects around homelessness and poverty such as serving meals, working in a food pantry, and other projects around the shelter. 
  • Indianapolis, Indiana- Various agencies in the Indianapolis community 
    • This service trip will get the unique opportunity to engage in a different service project within Indianapolis each day. 

Trip Fee

  • Fall Break Trips: $150

  • Spring Break Trips: $250

Students selected for a service trip will be required to pay a trip fee. The trip fees cover the costs of lodging, transportation, meals, t-shirt, and one local group activity. Students are expected to pay for their own food while traveling to and from the service sites as well as any other costs such as sightseeing or other personal costs while on the service trip. Participant fees are non-refundable.

If there are any concerns about the cost of a trip, please contact to see if any financial assistance is available. 

Site Leaders

Site Leaders are presented with the unique opportunity to both attend and lead a team of students through hands-on service within communities outside of the Ames/ISU community. On Alternative Breaks, students will become inspired and active in the community through diverse service opportunities and grow as lifelong community collaborators. 

Site Leader Responsibilities:

  • Attend weekly Site Leader training during the months leading up to the service trips. 

  • Assist in participant interviews and selection process.

  • Coordinate and facilitate group meetings with selected participants to train and educate team on the service, community, and agency they will be engaging with on the service trips. 

  • Assist in the communication with Host/Agency leading up to service trip to help coordinate service project(s).

  • Lead various activities such as reflections and team activities with team before and during service trip. 

Site Leader Testimonials:

"Personally, [serving as a site leader] allowed me to gain new friendships and connections with different students while also giving me the confidence to lead them. Professionally, I was given the opportunity to lead a group through something that I am very passionate about and gain the experience of being a site leader."

"[Serving as a site leader] furthered my personal goals and how I view myself as a leader."

"Our site leaders were amazing who didn't lead from the front. They were right next to everyone else doing just as much work. It was cool to see that they cared just as much, if not more, about being there and volunteering their time."

Interested in serving as a Site Leader? APPLY HERE!


  • Fall Trip Site Leader Deadline: Wednesday, September 18

  • Spring Trip Site Leader Deadline: Tuesday, October 1

Interested in Volunteering

Interested in being a participant on one of the service trips? Are you committed to volunteerism and service? Are you looking for a way to give back to the community during your Fall and/or Spring Break? If you are excited about devoting your time to service, having a great time, and forming lasting relationships and memories, then an Alternative Breaks Service trip is for you!

Here is what students are saying about their experience with engaging in an Alternative Breaks Service Trip:

"My Alternative Breaks experience was one of the highlights of my year. Overall, the trip was unforgettable, but among my favorite memories are getting to know the other great students that got to share this experience with me."

"All of it will be an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Not only did I get to experience every aspect of the organization, but I got to see how passionate everyone was with what they were doing. Just being around them and taking in their energy inspired me to want to help them make a difference."

"It was an amazing trip filled with so much laughter and joy. We had unforgettable experiences no matter what we did. This trip was very eye opening as well as enjoyable. I learned a lot as well as a lot about myself as an individual. I was so glad I was able to go and help these men, and I will remember the entire trip forever, especially the conversations I had and the men I got to know."

Participant Responsibilities

  • Attend group meetings to learn about service, community, and agency that the team will be egging with during the service trip.

  • Adhere to the policies and procedures set by the University, service site, and Site Leaders/Alternative Breaks Program both before, during, and after the service trip. 

*Service Trips are subject to change without notice. Alternative Breaks will strive to find a suitable alternative if such situation occurs. 

For more information, contact us at!


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