Giving them a break

Changing the world, one break at a time (from JMU's APB website)

Every student on campus is anticipating this coming Friday. It’s the beginning of spring break. Some students are heading to the beach or to other fun destinations. They’ll swim, snowboard or just hang out with friends.

Others, however, are headed to homeless shelters, community kitchens, national parks and refugee resettlement camps. These students are participating in JMU’s Alternative Break Program. They are not taking a spring break.

They’re giving theirs away.

Instead of donning swimsuits, they’ll be putting on work gloves, grabbing hammers, doling out meals and giving a whole lot of love.

To be clear, it’s not a free trip to an exotic destination paid for by a little labor on the side. In fact, students work hard, sometimes forgoing creature comforts. And the trips cost from several hundreds of dollars for a relatively close location to over a thousand dollars for destinations reached by air, all paid for by the students. This is money and time that they might otherwise spend on their own pleasures.

Still they go in droves. Last year almost 400 students gave away their spring breaks. This year’s Alternative Spring Break marks the 20th anniversary of the program which began in 1992 with 50 students and two staff.

This year’s students will travel to 10 states, including California and Missouri, and two countries, Jamaica and Costa Rica. Some will work with neglected and abused children at a shelter in Natchez, Miss. Others will fly to Jamaica to work with the mentally ill and homeless. Some will focus on clean-up and preservation of environmentally important locations, Redwoods National Park and Joshua Tree National Park. Still others will work with the endangered populations of sea turtles in Costa Rica. Many will work with children; at risk children in S.C., homeless children and their mothers in Kansas City, Mo., and youth who need a boost in Atlanta.

It is all about giving away what they could keep for themselves. Through the generous gift of the only free break they get between January and May, these students will make a difference in the lives of thousands. Their service is selfless and expensive, which puts them in a special category: those who sacrifice to deliver change to others less fortunate than they.

Of course when these students return at the end of break, they’ll be the first to tell us that they got more than they gave. Perhaps. But investing in humanity, in taking the steps they take to change the world, changes all of us and gives so many others the change at a better, brighter future.

We at Be the Change applaud these selfless students. They demonstrate clearly JMU’s belief that we really can change the world.

You can read more about the 25 Spring Break trips and learn much more about JMU’s APB program by visiting their website at

You can also learn more about what these students who give get from their efforts at   and


About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

One Response to Giving them a break

  1. Tom says:

    Nice. Thanks.


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