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Frequently Asked Questions and Finances

General questions

    Alternative Breaks are immersive service experiences focused on a variety of social justice issues in communities across the country. Each group includes 10 students- 8 participants and 2 trained Site Leaders.

    Alternative Breaks sends out groups domestically and internationally over winter (AWB), spring (ASB) and summer (ASumB) breaks. Students sign up online based on a social issue they feel passionate about. After a Meet and Greet with their Site Leaders, participants have weekly meetings to educate themselves better on the social justice issue, the nonprofits they’ll be working with, and the community they’ll be visiting.

    Alternative Breaks additionally offers our “Serve the Mitten” program, which includes our Friday service experiences. Friday breaks serve in the Mid-Michigan community and occur every other Friday throughout the semester.

    Any student currently enrolled at CMU, and in good standing with the University, can participate. This includes graduate students.

    Each service experience has 2 trained site leaders and up to 8 participants.

    Students are required to be in good standing with the University.

    For weeklong breaks, after sign-ups occur students will meet once weekly with their groups. Students are responsible for attending at least five weekly meetings and to participate in group fundraisers. Attendance is also mandatory for orientation, kick-off and re-orientation, which are each approximately one hour in duration.

    For Friday breaks, students are required to meet briefly with their group prior to departure for education that relates to their service and reconvene for reflection after the experience.


    Participants for all breaks are required to sign a participant policy and hold harmless form, which will be provided upon signing up for the break and must be completed before departure.

    Breaks occur for approximately one-week during winter, spring and summer breaks, as well as on Fridays during the academic year.

    Friday breaks occur from 12pm-4pm on Friday afternoons unless otherwise noted at the time of sign-up.

    Domestic weeklong breaks are $350 and Friday breaks are free to attend. All cots can be subsidized through fundraising and the application of a Travel Grant.

    Students have the opportunity to individually fundraise, participate in group fundraisers, and participate in the Alternative Breaks hosted program-wide fundraisers. 

    Travel grants are dispersed based on financial need and amounts vary.

    At the time of sign-up for weeklong Breaks, students are charged a non-refundable deposit of $50 to their CMU Student Account.

    The final cost of billing for weeklong Breaks, $300 less the amount of fundraising dollars, will be billed to students accounts prior to departure for their weeklong break.

    Payments can be viewed and paid online or through OneCentral, just as you would pay for a class. Alternative Breaks does not have its own billing cycle.

    The $350 program fee covers the price of transportation, housing, food, a program t-shirt, service supplies for the community partner, a 24/7 on-call advisor, and the training of all site leaders.

    What will the housing be like? 

    Minimalistic living is a key component of the Alternative Breaks experience, which often means low-cost/affordable housing. Most groups stay in churches or community centers while they are volunteering. While some housing locations will provide beds for students to sleep on, this varies and is not guaranteed. Students may need to provide their own bedding; this could mean sleeping bags, blankets, and/or air mattresses.

    All meals are  included in the final cost of the breaks. Each group will be given a food budget while they are on their trip. The group will be responsible for planning and cooking their meals, and housing includes a kitchen and the equipment necessary to prepare meals. All dietary needs and concerns will be met throughout the Alternative Breaks experience. Students with concerns should speak with their Site Leaders. 

    If proper equipment is not available at your housing (such as pots, pans, plates, etc.), the Alternative Breaks program will provide that to you. 

    During a weeklong break, the group will get to participate in a “Night Out,” where they will have the opportunity to participate in community immersion activities while eating at a local restaurant. The Alternative Breaks program will cover $10 per person for this meal. 

    Friday breaks do not provide meals to participants. 

    Domestic breaks will drive two rental mid-sized SUVs to the location of their site, meaning all breaks begin and end in Mt. Pleasant. Students will not be permitted to be dropped off or picked up in locations other than Mt. Pleasant at the conclusion of the Alternative Breaks experience.

    In order to drive on your Alternative Break, students need to be approved through the Risk Management office. Instructions on driver approval will be given by the site leaders during weekly meetings. Participants from out of state will have additional paperwork to complete in order to drive on the break, which will also be provided by the site leaders.

    We ask that all participants who have a valid driver's license to fill out the driving quiz. Students who are uncomfortable with driving during the break will not be forced to; however, in order to safely travel long distances, breaks will need multiple drivers.

    Alternative Friday Breaks participants provide their own travel to and from service.

    On Friday breaks, all driving will be completed by the site leaders. On domestic weeklong breaks, the groups’ travel options will vary based on location. Some breaks may drive the vehicles to and from service every day while others may take public transportation. If a student is approved to drive, they may be asked to drive during the break. All public transportation costs will be covered by the Alternative Breaks program.

    Immunizations may be required for domestic and international breaks, though students will be informed prior to application. Different community partners and countries require different sets of immunizations, and a list will be presented to you upon signing up for an Alternative Break. We recommend that students utilize the CMU Travel Office for immunizations.

    Students may be asked by the community partner to fill out background check forms or sign waivers for domestic sites. These waivers and background checks are not a requirement of Central Michigan University or the Alternative Breaks program. Students should consult a guardian and read them carefully prior to signing. Students who do not wish to sign paperwork from community partners may not be permitted to attend the experience. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Alternative Breaks advisor.

    The skills needed will be dependent upon what break students sign-up for. When signing up for Housing Inequality, students can expect more significant physical labor tasks. When signing up for a break that deals more with people, such as Supporting Elementary Education or Youth Development, you can expect there to be more personal interactions and less physical labor. We do not require volunteers to have certain skills. 

    If specific skills are needed on a volunteer site, students will receive the proper training. This training will come either before the students leave for service by their Site Leaders, or on site by the community partner. 

    The Alternative Breaks program centers 9 Quality Components, one of which is Education. Through the component of education, the program establishes and achieves “educational objectives to give participants a sense of context and understanding of both the region in which they will be working and of the problems they will be addressing during the break.”

    Please visit our Alternative Breaks Site Leader page for details on becoming an AB site Leader.

    Alternative Breaks Site Leader Information

    Please visit our Becoming a Board Member page for details on the Board Member application process.

    Apply to Become a Board Member Today!

    No. Alternative Breaks is a drug and alcohol free program to ensure cohesiveness in your group and to portray good images in the communities we are working with, as well as to remain a positive role model for your own community and CMU. Additionally, as in the case of many of our sites, the people we work with may have been impacted by drug and alcohol abuse and could potentially feel uncomfortable by our use.

    Alternative Breaks has a drug and alcohol free policy. This policy includes vaping.  If you are found under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or have either of these on you, you will be sent home at your own expense. Upon return to campus you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct for a meeting. 

    Please pack only what you will need for your break. Site leaders will send out packing lists to their participants prior to your departure date. As the students will be in two SUVs, it is important that students pack only the necessities. Try to pack as light as you can!

    The group Site Leaders are trained to handle a variety of situations. Although we can’t assure they will know what to do in every possible scenario, we can assure you that they know who to call and the next steps to take in the case of an emergency. We also have an Alternative Breaks advisor who is a CMU administrator that provides advice and direction as needed. She is on-call during all breaks, and can facilitate steps to take in unforeseen circumstances

    You can feel free to contact her at: 

    Symantha Misale Dattilo 
    (989) 774-7685 

    How much does it cost to go on an Alternative Break?

    A non-refundable $50 deposit is charged for signing up for an Alternative Weeklong Break. Each Weeklong Alternative Break costs $350 before fundraising and travel grants are applied. The final Break cost will be emailed to participants prior to the cost being charged to their student account.

    Costs are inclusive of all meals once at your site, service site fees, housing fees, van rentals, gas, and administrative costs.

    Additional costs outside of the amount billed to your student account may include food on the drive to the service location and possible excursions your group chooses to participate in.

    Domestic breaks in each season cost the same amount before individual site fundraising. To ensure the final cost reflects as close to true costs as possible, the final cost will be announced close to the time the trip goes out.

    Payments for International breaks differ by international location.

    How can I reduce the cost of going on an Alternative Break?

    The Alternative Breaks Board plans several fundraisers for each season to help lower costs of breaks. Traditionally these include Midnight Skate, cheesecake sales, and candle sales.

    The profits from program wide fundraisers gets split evenly between the breaks for that season. The site that gets the most people to vote for their issue at Midnight Skate gets an incentive of $10 per person off of the final cost.

    Cheesecake and candle sales profits are split evenly between individual break participants.

    Individual sites are encouraged to fundraise for their Break. All profits from site fundraisers are split among all participants and applied to the final break cost. Can drives and restaurant fundraisers are popular choices. Creativity is encouraged along with smart choices!

    The President's Office provides the Alternative Breaks Program with funds to award to students with financial need to directly lower the cost of their break experience. Travel Grant amounts will be announced annually.

    CMU's President, Dr. Robert Davies, has graciously provided financial support to the Alternative Breaks program. Half of the matched amount goes directly to lowering the cost of breaks, and half goes into the Alternative Breaks Endowment to help build the program's sustainability.