Mission and Vision
Branch Out will engage students in diverse quality alternative breaks so that they become active and educated members of society. Our vision is to create a community of active and educated individuals dedicated to the pursuit of social justice.
Alternative breaks are immersive service learning experiences where students travel locally, across the US and the globe in small groups to work in partnership with host organizations on community-driven service and social justice projects. Branch Out sponsors three kinds of alternative breaks:
- Regional in Virginia, North Carolina and Washington, DC during fall break and over MLK weekend in January,
- National in various East Coast locations during spring break, and
- International around the world on winter, spring and summer breaks.
Visit our blog to read about what our participants experience and to learn more about the issues we address.
Branch Out is an alternative breaks program, not a service trips program, because we offer much more than a direct service and travel experience. We educate our participants on issues, prepare them with training and orientation, reflect on our learning and build active citizens. “Alternative Breaks” is a term recognized nationally, and using that term identifies us as part of a national movement of strong programs building active citizens and making positive community change.
As a proud member of Break Away, Branch Out integrates the Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break and the concept of the Active Citizen Continuum. Branch Out was Break Away's 2011 Program of the Year and our advisor, OCE Director Melody Porter, was the 2010 Staff Person of the Year!
Branch Out also has a strong focus on social justice - meaning that we're working for a society in which everyone can achieve their full potential. We work to ensure that our projects build capacity and respect the dignity of the communities with whom we partner. Our site leaders are trained in principles of social justice and gain an understanding of privilege so that our alternative breaks can bring about more justice in society.
Reorientation - or what you do with your alternative break once you're back on campus and going forward - is a critical part of what we do. Sometimes people join a group and begin volunteering locally in connection to the issue their trip addressed, sometimes they link up with advocacy groups or read the news or vote differently, and sometimes they make really big life shifts. Whatever you do, all of that is part of being an active citizen.
We are proud to offer Reorientation Grants to financially support projects to individuals or groups who have been on alternative breaks to further their service and learning after returning to campus; because social change happens most effectively when people work together, we prioritize group projects (even if just one member was a former breaker). We compile a list of on-campus and local opportunities related to various social issues each year to help you stay connected right here in Williamsburg.
Meet our Student Leaders
Following the metaphor of the tree pictured in our logo, Branch Out is run by a team of six student directors who are collectively (and affectionately) referred to as the Trunk of Branch Out. Two student directors oversee each of the three "branches" of Branch Out: regional, national, and international.