Mizzou Alternative Breaks is a program at the University of Missouri that allows students to travel across the United States to help others. As most things do, Mizzou Alternative Breaks started out small. According to advisor Bryan Goers, the program started in 1991 as a part of the YMCA. Back then, there were only three trips offered that year within the United States. “It didn’t really start to grow until 2011.” In 2010 the University sent out eight trips with approximately 88 students, whereas this year they are sending out 69 trips with over 850 students.
The University of Missouri has the largest program for Alternative Breaks. This year the program received over 1600 applications, of which only approximately 850 students made the cut. Bryan Goers said that this comes from the fact that Mizzou students feel “the desire to give back”, even if it means giving up spending Thanksgiving break with your family or a week of sunshine in a Florida beach.
Kelsey Kupferer is now the Director of Leadership Development for Mizzou Alternative Break, but in 2012 she was a participant going to Memphis, Tennessee. Kelsey said that the experiences she gained as a participant, a group leader, and a member of the board are unparalleled with anything else. “People come back to Mizzou after this week with new outlooks on life, with new perspectives, with eleven new best friends (…) some even change their majors and start new organizations because of MAB. It’s just an experience like no other.”+
2012 marked the first year that Alternative Breaks took a leap outside of the US. One student insisted in doing an international trip so much, that it ended up becoming a reality. 12 students were sent that year to the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, the program is still largely based on US trips because of costs. An airplane ticket to North Dakota is three times cheaper than airfare to Argentina. However, there are still a few international trips planned, including three international trips this year: two to the Dominican Republic and one to Nicaragua. These trips were made possible through a partnership with Outreach 360.
About the trips:
Each trip or group of students focuses on something different. According to the Alternative Breaks website, the issues range “from environmental to health.”
The trips are done throughout the academic breaks: thanksgiving, winter, and spring. However, Bryan Goers said they are trying to incorporate more weekend long trips throughout the year as well as more international trips.
The funding for these trips comes from an upfront fee that the students have to pay that covers aspects along the lines of transportation and housing. As well as fundraising that students must do in order to cover the costs.
Approximately 20% of students that went once on an alternative trip apply again. This has helped the Alternative Breaks community grow, as each student comes back from their trip they talk to their friends and spread the word about it, getting more and more people involved in the program.