“Do all that you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”
~ Nkosi Johnson
Through the Center for Community Outreach, the Alternative Service Breaks program at the University of Kentucky connects students with service projects in communities beyond the borders of Lexington and Kentucky. We aim to provide service experiences that are educational and cultural, and to promote active citizenship among UK students, faculty, and staff.
Our philosophy is that quality community service, particularly service immersions like Alternative Service Breaks, must involve:
- strong direct service to address unmet community needs
- broad education and deep reflection about issues facing communities
- exposure to the character and culture of the communities in which we serve
Our approach is deeply rooted in the Break Away organization’s “Active Citizen Continuum” and “Eight Components Of A Quality Break Program,” which include:
- Strong Direct Service
- Alcohol and Other Drug-Free
In 2008, the Alternative Service Breaks (ASB) program at the University of Kentucky was developed as a part of the national movement to involve college students in community-based service projects and to give students opportunities to learn about the complex issues faced by members of diverse communities. As former President George W. Bush said at that time, “From now on in America, any definition of a successful life must include serving others.”
The creation of “alternative breaks” was one response to increasing calls from world leaders encouraging young people to get involved and take action in their communities. They were intended to immerse students in new communities throughout the U.S. and abroad, as well as people whose experiences may be different from their own. According to Break Away, the national alternative breaks clearinghouse, “Being completely immersed into diverse environments enables participants to experience, discuss, and understand social issues in a significant way. The intensity of the experience increases the likelihood that participants will transfer the lessons learned on-site back to their own communities even after the alternative break ends.
Break Away seeks to use alternative breaks as a springboard into lifelong active citizenship, where the community becomes a priority in an individual’s life decisions. Likewise, the ASB program at UK aims to engage students in strong direct service to the community, through which students reflect upon complex social issues, and develop the knowledge and skills to take further action. According to Break Away, an estimated 36,000 students across the U.S. participated in an alternative break experience during spring break in 2008.
During the past few years, ASB has continued to grow, expanding from 3 service trips in its first year to 4 service trips in 2010-2011, and 6 service trips in 2011-2012. In 2009, the program broadened to include weekend service trips aimed at serving communities throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky, for example the Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, KY. Two years ago, the program announced the addition of its first spring break service trip abroad, to the rural community of Jaibon in the Dominican Republic. Last year, a second international trip to Ecuador was added to the Spring Break trip options. This year, the Winter Service Break was added to the Alternative Service Breaks program.
Other examples of service trips ASB at UK has coordinated and led are: 1) serving as camp counselors for kids with cancer at the Center for Courageous Kids, 2) educating youth at a “last chance school” in Rural Kentucky, 3) rebuilding communities post-Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, 4) addressing urban poverty in various forms in East St. Louis, and 5) empowering youth teaching English at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.