W&M a leader in alternative breaks

  • Alternative breaksWilliam & Mary's Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship offers students numerous ways throughout the year to become engaged in their communities, including local service opportunities as well as regional, national and international trips offered through the Branch Out program. Here, students participate in a day of service in Petersburg.

    Photo by Stephen Salpukas

    Alternative breaks

William & Mary was once again a leader in the area of service during the 2010-11 academic year, according to data collected by Break Away, a nonprofit organization that helps colleges promote alternative break programs.

William & Mary is included on the nonprofit’s top ten lists of schools with the most alternative break trips, schools with the most participants and schools with the highest percentage of participants.

With 30 trips and 371 participants, the College is listed as seventh among schools that provided alternative break trips throughout the year and eighth among schools with the highest number of trip participants. Among schools with the highest percentage of participants, William & Mary is listed as eighth with 6.5 percent.

Break Away based its numbers on a survey that was sent to the more than 300 schools that it serves. Overall, its schools hosted 1,536 total trips with 15,481 participants.

William & Mary’s Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship offers students numerous ways throughout the year to become engaged in their communities, including local service opportunities as well as regional, national and international trips offered through the Branch Out program.

“Branch Out is proud to be listed among so many high-quality alternative breaks programs across the U.S.,” said Melody Porter, associate director of OCES. “While we're excited about our numbers, we are most thrilled that behind those numbers are myriad stories of impact and positive change. When students return from alternative breaks, they've gained knowledge, shed a little sweat alongside community partners, and formulated plans to continue acting on the issue and in partnership with the community. It's gratifying and inspiring to see that happen in different ways, hundreds of times over!”

Janice Van, a junior majoring in English and Russian studies, served as a Branch Out regional site leader for three trips this year, and she was involved in the Bosnia Project, a five-week summer service project.

“I love going on a variety of trips to get a full range of experiences under my belt,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with oversea opportunities and touched by local opportunities, alike. That’s the best thing about service trips here. Anyone can do them, whether you’re looking for a long-term cross-cultural experience or a fun weekend escape.”

Senior Katherine Eklund, a public policy major who served as the student director for this year’s national Branch Out trips, said that statistics “only tell part of the story of Branch Out’s impact.”

“As a result of trips, many students have changed their academic or career path or have decided to start or get involved with new academic, advocacy, and service-oriented projects,” she said. “By learning about the issues and working side by side with community partners, these trips are truly catalysts for students to gain a deeper understanding of and passion for how they can work for justice now and in the future.”