Community Engagement & Service

Alternative Breaks Leader Information & Resources

Do you want to lead an Alternative Break?

Becoming a Student Leader:

Thank you for your interest in leading an Alternative Break program. This page will provide you with the necessary information on the process of becoming an Alt Break leader. We are looking for graduate or undergraduate students who, ideally, have participated on a program in the past. If you have not been able to go on an Alternative Break program yet, it is still possible to become a leader. 

Students become Alternative Break leaders by proposing a program that partners with a local community organization to address social justice issues in a location of the students’ choice. Because of the amount of responsibility required, two student leaders usually work together to lead the program.

Alternative Breaks not only allow students to engage in social movements and global activism and develop your career skills; they’re also an opportunity to represent AU and its values to the world.

We’re looking for highly skilled, motivated and passionate leaders who can plan and lead a program that creates a positive learning experience for all involved.

Writing the Proposal/Application:

The first step to becoming a leader is to complete the preliminary application, which is an online Request for Proposal (RFP). The proposal is available on EngageNet.

You must meet and discuss your ideas and qualifications with the Assistant Director of Global Learning & Leadership before submitting the RFP so- set up a meeting as soon as possible!

You will have two options to select on EngageNet:

Which RFP is right for you?

Past Trip: Sustained Community Partnerships RFP or New Trip Request for Proposal (RFP)

If you would like to lead a trip that has successfully happened in the past, you will fill out a Past Program: Sustained Community Partnerships RFP application.
The list of host site locations and possible social justice issues are on the Past Programs tab to the left. There are multiple social justice issues listed, indicating that we may have different community partner organizations at the site who work on different issues. Decide on one social issue and location you would like to lead.

In section one of the preliminary RFP, you will be asked to write a short essay in response to “To Hell with Good Intentions”.
You will be asked to answer the following questions about the article:

  1. Please respond to this article. What is your understanding of community service-learning and social justice?
  2. What are the benefits of volunteering and community engagement versus the pitfalls and challenges?
  3. How does this article relate to the work you propose to do in your partner community?

In the next essay question you will be asked to describe examples of your leadership skills in the following six areas:

  1. Conflict Resolution or dealing with a difficult situation
  2. Communication and public speaking
  3. Fostering collaboration and delegation of tasks
  4. Facilitation, running meetings, guided reflection and team building
  5. Project planning, time management, logistics
  6. Intercultural competence, experience working with people different from you

And finally, in part three you will be asked which social justice issue you will focus on, what involvement you have had with the issue and your suggestions for changes from the past program under your leadership.

In order to build and deepen community partnerships, priority will be given to proposals working with communities or organizations the Alternative Break program has worked with in the past.

New Program Request for Proposal:

Questions one and two on understanding social justice beyond volunteerism and leadership skills are the same as above in Past Program RFP. In the final section for a new program, you will be asked to write a 500 word essay describing the social justice theme, your relationship with the community partner organizations, and how these organizations link to the social justice issue of the new program proposal.

In order to create a new program, proposals to work with new communities or new organizations must be very thorough and demonstrate that you already have a strong relationship with a social justice movement in that region.

New program proposals will be especially scrutinized for feasibility, sustainability, strong connections to grassroots organizations and leader knowledge of social justice issue and destination.

Full Detailed Proposal:

The Alternative Break Advisory Board will review the RFP’s and if yours meets the criteria, you will be asked to submit a complete proposal.
You will be emailed the Full Detailed Proposal Form (a Word doc.) when you meet with staff from the CCES office. You may email to request the Full Detailed Proposal Form.

If you are asked to go to this next stage, you will have a month to complete the Full Detailed Proposal, so please plan accordingly.

The Full Detailed Proposal will describe all of the details of your program such as:

  • Social justice theme and theoretical background
  • Learning outcomes
  • Itinerary connected to the social justice theme
  • Community partner organizations and proposed work plan
  • Detailed budget
  • Safety considerations
  • Orientation curriculum
  • How you will ensure an alcohol free program
  • Ideas for activism projects and engagement in the Washington, DC community


After you have submitted the Full Detailed Proposal you will be contacted via email if your proposal will move on to the interview stage. If you are contacted for an interview, it is ideal if you can come in person. If not, phone or Skype interviews are possible.

For the interview, please prepare a five minute summary presentation of your program proposal. You will then be asked about your individual qualifications and the Advisory Board will ask you any clarifying questions they have about your program's social justice theme and the community partners you would be working with during the direct engagement component of the program.

Required criteria to become a Student Leader:

1. Essential conditions for student leaders:

  • Dedication to social justice and the issue topic at hand
  • Participant on a previous Alternative Break program or comparable travel experience
  • Leadership skills
  • Knowledge of area/destination country
  • Language ability (if applicable)
  • GPA 3.0 is required for all leaders
  • Remain on AU's campus the entire academic year of program to facilitate orientation, direct engagement, and reorientation/activism components of the program.

2. Alternative Break Advisory Board is looking for in a trip:

  • Social justice theme articulated
  • Social justice theme represented in proposed itinerary and activities
  • Proposal well-planned and well-thought out
  • Direct engagement component is feasible
  • Direct engagement component is safe
  • Students have connections to high quality community partner organizations, individuals or destination service providers

3. Requirements for Staff/Faculty Advisor. Students interview and choose appropriate staff or faculty to accompany their program:

  • Experience in country or region
  • Expertise on the issues being addressed
  • Experience with Alternative Breaks and service-learning/social justice a plus
  • Full-time staff must have "exempt" status

Leader Resources:

To find out everything you need to know about leading a program, please read the Guide to Leading an Alternative Program.

Make sure to read the sample proposal and download the budget worksheet on the right hand side of this page.

Additional qualifications we are looking for in Alternative Break Student Leaders:

  • Understanding of social justice that goes beyond volunteerism
  • Commitment to the 8 Components of Quality Alternative Breaks
  • Knowledge & passion for social issues
  • Cross-cultural sensitivity
  • Self-motivation & organizational skills
  • Demonstrated leadership on AU campus
  • Ability to lead a group of peers
  • Budgeting and monetary skills
  • Ability to organize & conduct 8 weekly pre-trip training sessions
  • Connections to a solid community organization working in important social movements
  • Time to plan, organize and arrange all logistics for trip, including recruitment of participants on campus
  • Commitment to attend leader training workshops and weekly advising meetings with Alt Break Coordinator
  • Commitment to alcohol free policy of Alternative Breaks

The Center for Community Engagement & Service is committed to diversity in leaders, diverse social & environmental issues and diverse regional destinations.


Student trip leaders’ expenses are covered by the participant fee. Student leaders to international sites are subsidized 75% of the fee, while domestic leaders are fully subsidized. Faculty and Staff costs are covered by the Center for Community Engagement and Service.




·         February 26 Future Leader Workshop

·         March 25 Future Leader Workshop: 7-9pm MGC 247

·         April 5 Winter & Spring RFP Preliminary Application on EngageNet DUE by 5:00 pm

·         April 10 Students contacted if moving on to interviews

·         April 13--17 Week of applicant interviews 

·         April 24 Applicants contacted if we would like a Full Detailed Proposal (winter/spring)

·         June 15 Winter & spring applicants submit Full Detailed Proposals to by 5:00pm

·         June 24 Summer 2016 RFP Applications on EngageNet DUE by 11:59pm

·         July 1 Summer applicants contacted if moving on to interviews

·         July 7--9 Summer interviews (in person or Skype)

·         July 13 Summer applicants notified if moving to Full Detailed Proposal (plan on attending FSE)

·         July 13 Winter/Spring leaders notified if program is approved

·         August 2 Summer applicants submit Full Detailed Proposals to by 11:59pm

·         August 7 Summer leaders notified if program is approved

·         August 19 Recruitment Materials DUE

·         August 24-27- FSE and Alt Break Leader Orientation (at AU)


Weekend Leader Retreat: September 4-6

Weekly Advising Meetings:
 To be determined based on your schedule.

Bi-Weekly Leader Trainings: Fridays 5:30- 7:30pm

Office Hours:

The Interim Program Assistant’s office hours are by appointment on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
email with your proposed time to come in to the office (MGC 273).

Thanks for taking the first step to becoming an Alternative Break leader!


Guide to Planning an Alternative Break Program

Guide to Planning an Alternative Break Trip

 Read about the steps necessary to plan your own Alternative Break program!

Download the Guide

Contact Information

Christine Gettings
Assistant Director, Global Learning and Leadership
Center for Community Engagement & Service
273 Mary Graydon Center
Phone: 202-885-2684