Student Activities Center

Alternative Breaks

The mission of the Alternative Breaks program at Iowa State University is to provide direct service opportunities for students to experience diverse perspectives, learn about social issues, and grow as life-long active citizens.

The Iowa State University Alternative Breaks program places teams of students in communities to engage in service learning during university breaks. Students perform short-term projects for community agencies and learn about various social issues.

Applications for 2018 Spring Alternative Break trips are available nowFor more information, contact us at

What is Alternative Breaks?

The Alternative Breaks program began in 2008 at Iowa State. The Iowa State University Alternative Breaks program places teams of students in communities across the United States to engage in community service during Winter and Spring Break. Students perform short-term projects for community agencies and learn about various social issues.

To go on a trip, interested students must submit an application during the Fall semester to attend a Winter or Spring Break trip. Based on applications, students will be selected to interview and indicate interest in a trip they want to attend. Students chosen to go on trips will be expected to attend pre-trip meetings to become familiar with the social issue of their trip and become acquainted with their team. Trip costs can range from $150-$250 per trip. This amount varies depending on the distance traveled, housing accommodations, and other site-fees. The cost includes transportation, lodging, meals once on-site, and a t-shirt. Each student is expected to pay for their own food while traveling. A group may decide to participate in additional excursion/sightseeing opportunities and these costs would be separate from the trip fee.  If there are any concerns about the cost of a trip, please contact

Where are the trips going?

The Alternative Breaks Leadership Team is working hard to finalize partnerships with service organizations to confirm where our trips are going and what exactly they'll be doing. More specific information is coming, but in the meantime we can provide the following information:

Alternative Breaks will host one Winter Break trip (depart Ames Tuesday 1/2/18, returning Sunday 1/7/18) going to Memphis, Tennessee. Applications are available now and due 9/29!

Alternative Breaks will host seven Spring Break trips (departing Ames Sunday 3/11/18, returning Saturday 3/17/18) going to the following locations:

  • Wellington, Colorado

    • On this trip, we partner with Harvest Farm and participants will complete kitchen work involving preparing and packaging meals. as well as general maintenance or agricultural farm work. All work will be done side by side with residents recovering from alcohol and drug addiction.

  • Rising Fawn (Cloudland Canyon State Park), Georgia

  • New Orleans, Louisiana

    • On this trip, we partner with Common Ground Relief and participants complete planting/gardening projects, invasive species removal, nursery work, and other work in the neighborhoods.

  • Eagle Butte, South Dakota

    • On this trip, we partner with the Cheyenne River Youth Project and participants complete various service projects like cleaning, organizing warehouses, garden work, etc. all in partnership with some of the youth in the community. Participants also host a "college night" of sorts to help some of the high schoolers learn about the application and college choice process.

  • Nashville, Tennessee

    • On this trip we partner with Friends of Warner Parks and participants work with Nashville community members to revitalize, repair, and maintain urban parks.


We are looking for enthusiastic students who are committed to volunteerism and service, and looking for a way to give back to the community during spring break. Our selection process will be competitive, based on application and interview. Completing an application does not guarantee you an interview. 

If you are excited about devoting a week of your college life to service, having a great time and forming lasting memories, you are the perfect person to go on an Alternative Breaks trip. Here is what students are saying about their Alternative Breaks experience:

"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 and functions.

  • Sign all required policy forms.

  • Pay, in full, the required fees prior to the trip.  The cost will vary per trip (between $150-$250). Participants cover the cost of food during travel time.

  • Adhere to the standards set by their Site and the Alternative Breaks Program during, before, and after the trip.

*Trips are subject to change without notice


For more information, contact us at!


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