Travel, Explore, and Volunteer with Alternative Service Breaks This Spring
Registration deadline is Friday, February 21—some trips still have openings
Last summer, Nicole Sancilio, a program manager for this year’s Alternative Service Breaks (ASB), began calling some of its community partners. One particular conversation stands out.
Someone at one of the organizations Sancilio (Sargent’20) phoned picked up after the first ring. Before she could even finish introducing herself, the woman on the other end jumped in: “Hey, when are y’all coming? We miss you! If you ever do a Thanksgiving trip, let us know.” As she broke the news that no Thanksgiving trips were planned, Sancilio realized just how special ASB is.
“With ASB, these are long-standing relationships that we’ve built with communities, going back 20 years in some cases,” she says. “They’re so genuinely excited to have us because they know whatever group we send does good work. It’s really cool to see that and to know that we have so many really beautiful relationships all over the country. It’s something that’s unique to our program.”
Founded in 1988 and overseen by BU’s Community Service Center, ASB offers students the opportunity to travel to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico during spring break for a week of volunteering and education with nonprofits, working in such areas as the environment, homelessness and housing, youth development and education, food justice, and more.
There are 20 trips offered this year, and the cost for students is between $270 and $1,100, which covers transportation, housing, and food. Registration closes on Friday, February 21, and there are still a handful of spots open on trips to Greenville, S.C., and closer to home, to Orland, Maine. Scholarships are available for Pell Grant–eligible students and students who demonstrate significant financial need. ASB is also seeking more chaperones, who must be full- or part-time graduate students or full-time BU employees, especially those with a valid license who are willing to be trained to drive a van; they will participate in the volunteer work, too.
The Greenville trip connects volunteers with the Frazee Center and Poe Mill Achievement Center, two organizations that work in youth development and education. Projects will include helping with after-school programming, preschool classes, art projects, and more.
In Orland, volunteers will work with Homeworkers for More Employment, a nonprofit that serves the community’s homeless population through its shelter, soup kitchen, food pantry, childcare services, and more. Tobi Dele-Oni (Sargent’20), ASB co–program manager, was the Orland trip coordinator in 2018, and says the project tackles homelessness in a unique way—instead of providing just shelter to the homeless, it offers job training as well.
Find up-to-date information on trip openingst on the ASB registration form.
Sancilio and Dele-Oni know that forgoing a more traditional and relaxing spring break to volunteer in an unknown place can be daunting. The work is difficult, the hours are long, and many trips include staying in churches or camping. But while the service and educational aspects are the focus, they emphasize that ASB is also a lot of fun, special and long-lasting relationships are forged, and the satisfaction of helping others is immensely rewarding.
“You do a lot of exploring in the community, and that informs your service,” Sancilio says. “I think that kind of exploration is inherently fun, but it’s also where you get a lot more of the intangible things out of the experience.”
The two program managers also underscore the value of traveling to volunteer. While Boston is full of community service opportunities, ASB offers the opportunity to experience communities that participants may never visit otherwise. And for destinations like New Orleans and Chicago, students will discover new sides to familiar cities, Dele-Oni says.
The theme for this year’s ASB program is “Strike a Chord.” It hails from Sancilio and Dele-Oni’s shared love of music, but it also represents ASB’s core purpose. “Music, like ASB, brings people together,” Sancilio says. “There’s something for everyone. It’s power, it’s community. Those are the things we try to emulate.”