Alternative Spring Break

ASB Top Image

Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trips provide a unique opportunity for students to participate in an intensive public service experience while increasing their understanding of significant social and environmental problems.  Engaged in direct service relating to these problems, students live and work in communities with which they otherwise may have little contact. Being completely immersed in this environment over an extended period of time allows students to internalize their experience, which can serve as a springboard for a lifelong commitment to social change.

During the spring semester, participants attend weekly pre-service meetings to prepare them for their service experience. These meetings include background and cultural information about the site, educational visits from Bowdoin professors, reading assignments, film viewing, fundraising, and team-building activities. During the trip, students participate in meaningful service activities, daily reflective sessions, and evening group activities. After returning to campus, students work together to educate the larger Bowdoin community about their issue area and experience.

West Virginia has helped to remind me of how incredibly connected I am to humanity at large, of how every decision I make affects so much more than myself.
- Dana Hopkins ’14, West Virginia

Applying to a Trip

Applications for 2014 Alternative Spring Break have been collected.  Check back here next fall for information about the 2015 application process.

Student Leadership

Alternative Spring Break trips are organized and led by students who want to provide an intensive learning through service experience. ASB leaders are responsible for all aspects of the alternative spring break trip, including recruiting participants, trip logistics, coordinating with the host site, and leading the actual trip.

Leader Selection
ASB proposals and leader applications are reviewed each spring for the following year by a committee of students, faculty, and McKeen Center staff. Those leaders whose trips are selected receive support and training from the McKeen Center to plan and implement their ASB trips.

Leaders' Seminar
During the fall semester, ASB leaders participate in the Leaders' Seminar, a 10-week course facilitated by the staff of the McKeen Center. This seminar prepares leaders in how to organize and lead their trips and to help student participants examine the political, social, cultural, and economic aspects of their service and the communities in which they will be living. Through this seminar, leaders develop their own seminar which they lead for their trip participants in the spring.

This Year's Trips

Harvesting Communities in Immokalee, Florida
Immokalee, Florida
Work with community outreach organizations to explore issues of poverty, social mobility,and education within the context of harvesting communities in Immokalee, FL. Leaders: Carl Boisrond '16 and Matthew Friedland '15

Revitalize Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia
Assist refugees on the path to resettlement, from citizenship to education to job placement. Meet individual refugees of all backgrounds and leave with insight into untold refugee narratives. Leaders: Malik McKnight '15 and Elina Zhang '16

Safe Passage to Guatemala
Guatemala City, Guatemala
In collaboration with Safe Passage, engage in educational and creative activities with youth and adults living around the main landfill in Guatemala City, while learning about the environmental issues of the country’s most urban setting. Leaders: Tracie Goldsmith '14 and Georgia Whitaker '14

Nourishing New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
Explore the issues of nutrition and food accessibility in communities still recovering from hurricane Katrina. Immerse yourself in the working of New Orleans’ food banks and soup kitchens. Leaders: Kathryn Brady '14 and Amy Schwietzer '14

Learning and Living with the Passamaquoddy
Pleasant Point, Maine
Gain insight into Native American communities in Maine by working in a local elementary school and interacting with community members of the Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Tribe. Leaders: Kelsey Freeman '16 and Sarah Levy '16
*This trip is fully financed by the President's Office as part of the Bowdoin-Colby-Bates Wabanaki Collaborative.

Feeding the Mind in Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Explore Philadelphia's food access programs and education system, by working with soup kitchens and independent high schools.  Leaders: Laura Keller '15 and Carolyn M. Veilleux '16

Past Trips

Before this trip I thought of issues of poverty as if they could be drawn on graphs and shoved into political speeches, but now I think of them as a tangle of simple problems that all kinds of people face every day.
- Jessie Turner ’13, Guatemala

The Alternative Spring Break program has a successful and exciting history.  The first trip sponsored through the McKeen Center (formerly the Community Service Resource Center) traveled to Peru in 2002.  Since then, the program has grown exponentially.  In 2012 we saw almost 100 students travel to 8 destinations, both domestic and international.  Through all this time, these trips have been designed and led exclusively by students.  See below links for descriptions of all the past trips and students' reflections of their experiences.

Read about past trips:



For more information about the ASB program contact Andrew Lardie, Associate Director at the McKeen Center.