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4 Alternative Spring Break Volunteer Programs

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The traditional college spring break full of crowds and beer bongs is not the only option for students these days. For a more enriching experience, Alex Thurnher shares four volunteer-based alternatives to the traditional spring break.

Spring break is often defined by hazy days in an all-inclusive resort, but opting for a volunteer alternative might be just the thing for your wallet, your resume and your parents’ pride…..or what’s left of it. Here are four opportunities for working with children, improving the environment, and getting out in nature.

Service for Peace

If you want an exotic experience beyond Cancun, Service for Peace is the right place for you. The organization runs projects in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Kenya and the Philippines. Their cornerstone is sustainable community development aiming to actively empower communities to make their own decisions about their future. A recent trip had student groups building a levee to keep a Dominican town from continuously flooding.  Service for Peace is used to serving large groups, so the more the merrier. The organization operates year-round, so other opportunities beyond spring break. Program fees vary but cover food, housing, in-country transportation and all other related expenses.

Jamaica Volunteer Programs

credit Omar Evans

If you still need to get a great beach experience in, consider the Jamaica Volunteer Programs. Based in Kingston, you are in close proximity to Hellshire, Fort Clarence, Fairy Hill, and Lime Cay Beaches. Looking for something stress free? Well, there are no application deadlines, but spring break programs run from the second week in February to the third week of April. All the organization asks is that you immerse yourself in the Jamaican culture by combining a vacation with volunteerism. Opportunities include refurbishing schools, volunteering in an orphanage or coaching kids in various sports. For those who want to take helping Jamaica to the next level, gap year programs are for all ages. Long term positions are available in medical, dental, online marketing, social media, and teaching. The program has a $100 per person program fee as well as $700 for shared accommodation for one week as well as meals (excluding lunch), transportation, wireless internet and other support.

American Hiking Society

Photo Credit - Marquette University

Picture this, you embark into the wilderness with a dozen of your closest friends. You get to fend for yourselves and cook all your own meals. How anti spring break is that? For a few hours each day, volunteers with the American Hiking Society help maintain the popular trails that make camping safe for everyone. It’s one of the most budget friendly options; $225 secures lodging, a food stipend, and project guidance for inexperienced hikers. There are options throughout the U.S. One caveat…if you’re looking to be a reclusive mountaineer, this isn’t the trip for you. More than 100 students participate in this single program every year.

The Student Conservation Association

If you’re looking for a life-altering experience this might be the program for you. A large percentage of students that participate in this  program end up working in the National Park Service. The best part of this program…it’s free. American Eagle Outfitters covers your scholarship for the program which includes travel costs, food, training, and lodging. Keep in mind this is probably the greenest of the green. You’ll spend your time preserving native vegetation and assisting in restoration of damaged wildlife at the Big Cyprus National Preserve or the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. There is one catch however. You probably missed the deadline of January 28, so maybe make plans for next year’s trip. Also, don’t underestimate the popularity of this program. Only 120 spots are available, hence the early application process. Also, don’t worry about feeling under-qualified. There are no prerequisites for the program–just passion for the outdoors, a willingness to work hard as part of a team in any weather and a desire to make a difference.

For more information about volunteer programs, check out:

By Alex Thurnher for

Feature image credit: Kaori Phillips