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Alternative Break Program Sets Higher Ed Standard

By Adrienne Frank

Alt Break Mexico Market

A dozen years after University Chaplain Joe Eldridge led American University’s first alternative break to Honduras, AU’s service-learning program is a model for schools across the country.

AU is one of seven institutions featured in the U.S. News and World Report article, “Alternative Spring Breaks Combine Service, Learning.” The March 2 report cites AU as a “strong example of schools that focus on new and innovative social justice issues.”

“AU has a very thoughtful program. Social justice is always central to our mission; we go beyond building houses,” said Shoshanna Sumka, coordinator, Global and Community-Based Learning.

“A lot of hard work goes into these trips. We have great students who really take the mission of the alternative breaks program and run with it.”

Since 2001, 884 students have participated in 67 trips across the United States and around the world.

This month, students will travel to Colombia, Ireland, Kenya, Bangladesh, New Orleans, and the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation in Arizona. Summer trips to India, Nepal, Mexico, and Israel and the West Bank are already full.

“That’s pretty typical,” said Sumka. “There’s a waiting list for the trips. We almost always have to turn away 50 percent of students.”

Written by AU alumna Rebecca Kern, the U.S. News and World Report article is illustrated by a slideshow featuring photos from AU’s trips to Nepal and Burma.