1st Edition

Working Side by Side Creating Alternative Breaks as Catalysts for Global Learning, Student Leadership, and Social Change

    390 Pages
    by Routledge

    390 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book constitutes a guide for student and staff leaders in alternative break (and other community engagement, both domestic and international) programs, offering practical advice, outlining effective program components and practices, and presenting the underlying community engagement and global learning theory. Readers will gain practical skills for implementing each of the eight components of a quality alternative break program developed by Break Away, the national alternative break organization. The book advances the field of student-led alternative breaks by identifying the core components of successful programs that develop active citizens. It demonstrates how to address complex social issues, encourage structural analysis of societal inequities, foster volunteer transformation, and identify methods of work in mutually beneficial partnerships. It emphasizes the importance of integrating a justice-centered foundation throughout alternative break programs to complement direct service activities, and promotes long-term work for justice and student transformation by offering strategies for post-travel reorientation and continuing engagement. The authors address student leadership development, issue-focused education, questions of power, privilege, and diversity, and the challenges of working in reciprocal partnerships with community organizations. They offer guidance on fundraising, budget management, student recruitment, program structures, the nuts and bolts of planning a trip, risk management, health and safety, and assessment and evaluation. They address the complexities of international service-learning and developing partnerships with grassroots community groups, non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, and intermediary organizations. For new programs, this book provides a starting point and resource to return to with each stage of development. For established programs, it offers a theoretical framework to reflect on and renew practices for creating active citizens and working for justice.

    Figures and Tables Foreword Acknowledgments Introduction PART ONE. FOUNDATIONS 1. Alternative Breaks Defined 2. A Brief History of Alternative Breaks. The Beginnings of the Movement 3. Working Together for Justice. A Theoretical Framework 4. Developing Community Partnerships for Mutual Benefit 5. Alternative Breaks as Catalysts of Active Citizenship PART TWO. KEY COMPONENTS OF ALTERNATIVE BREAKS 6. The Eight Components. Foundations of a Successful Alternative Break Program 7. Diversity and Social Justice. Addressing Power, Privilege, and Systems of Oppression 8. Education. Understanding Social Issues 9. Orientation. Learning About the Organization, Location, and Context 10. Training. Building Skills 11. Strong Direct Service. Working With Communities 12. Alcohol- and Drug-Free Programs. Practicing Full Engagement 13. Reflection. Synthesizing Learning and Experience 14. Reorientation. Active Citizens Reorganizing Locally PART THREE. STUDENT LEADERSHIP, LEARNING, AND TRANSFORMATION 15. Student Leadership in Action 16. Program Structures and Leadership Roles 17. Training Student Leaders 18. Assessing Student Learning PART FOUR. DEVELOPING AND STRENGTHENING ALTERNATIVE BREAK PROGRAMS 19. Program Growth and Continual Improvement 20. Community Building 21. Recruiting Leaders and Participants 22. Budgeting, Finances, and Fund-raising 23. Risk Management and Other Logistics PART FIVE. GOING GLOBAL 24. The Complexities of International Alternative Breaks 25. Developing International Community Partnerships 26. Working with Intermediary Organizations PART SIX. A SOCIETY OF ACTIVE CITIZENS 27. Working Collaboratively Through Compacts and Collectives 28. The Power of Alternative Break Alumni Epilogue. A Call to Action References Index


    Shoshanna Sumka is the Assistant Director of Global Learning and Leadership at American University, where she oversees the alternative break program and other international immersion programs. At AU, she developed the program from the ground up, created a leadership training curriculum, and increased participation by 300%. As a leader in international & experiential education, she has lived, worked and/or traveled extensively in Kenya, Israel, Indonesia, Venezuela, Zambia, Thailand, Colombia, Haiti, and India. She directed the University of Idaho’s study abroad program in Ecuador where she taught courses on indigenous rights in the Amazon rain forest. She has a BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Earlham College and a Master's in Applied Anthropology from the University of Maryland. Shoshanna was named Break Away Staff Person of the Year in 2012. Melody Christine Porter is the Associate Director of Community Engagement at the College of William and Mary, where she supervises the alternative breaks program and develops community partnerships. Previously, she served as Director of Volunteer Emory at Emory University, where she developed an alternative fall break program. She has worked in nonprofit administration, ministry, and served as a full-time volunteer for three years after college, in Philadelphia, PA and Johannesburg, South Africa. Melody holds a Master’s in Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and a BA in Political Science from Emory University. Melody was named Staff Person of the Year by Break Away in 2010, and her program at William and Mary received the Program of the Year award in 2011. Jill Piacitelli is the co-Executive Director at Break Away, having led the organization since 2004. Jill has worked with alternative break programs in various capacities for over fifteen years: in various positions with Break Away: The Alternative Break Connection, as a staff advisor while working on the campuses of Johnson St

    "Alternative Breaks on college campuses have moved from a 'feel good' week of service to a movement for social change. Working Side by Side is a comprehensive look at these short-term and immersive service experiences led by students during weekends or academic breaks. The authors provide an effective introduction to those unfamiliar with co-curricular service experiences, explaining the history, structure, and critical components of Alternative Breaks. In addition to its practicality as a 'how-to' manual, Working Side by Side offers a more theoretical argument for understanding Alternative Breaks as a social justice movement in which students develop as active citizens and communities are made stronger through their efforts together.

    To this reviewer’s knowledge, this is the only book of its kind and is likely the closest there is to a textbook on Alternative Breaks.

    In sum, the book is effective and accessible to students, staff, and faculty who are looking to start or strengthen an existing program or learn about the potential transformative power of Alternative Breaks. Even beyond those directly in this field, anyone working with students who are engaging in the community will find Working Side by Side an effective resource for program development. As a community engagement practitioner who works directly with an Alternative Break program, reading this book was a reflective, affirming, and energizing experience."

    Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement


    “This is a compelling read for anyone interested in learning that fosters authentic relationships rooted in “values of social justice, dignity, empowerment, and capacity building” (33). Although religious and theological frameworks are not discussed directly, schools or educators who offer immersion or intercultural learning experiences will benefit from reading this research. The authors’ caution about the tendency to slip toward do-gooder tourism, poverty tourism, and forms of educational travel where privileged students unwittingly perpetuate legacies of colonialism is timely and relevant. The conclusion of this book includes observations about the “need for inspiration and collective action” (359). If faith communities hope to be known as sources of inspiration and collective action in the future, this book offers potential for fertile common ground.”

    Reflective Teaching


    "Working Side by Side is a seminal book on alternative breaks in the context of higher education. The authors authoritatively speak from the forefront of the field. This book will be required reading for student affairs and civic engagement professionals—as well as for student leaders and participants. From a theoretical grounding emphasizing reciprocity to strategies that promote effectiveness, readers will walk away with a vision and roadmap for alternative breaks with impact."

    Amanda Moore McBride, PhD, Director

    Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement and Associate Professor, George Warren Brown School of Social Work, Washington University in St. Louis

    "Working Side by Side is a must read for any college or university planning an Alternative Break. Through the context of social justice issues, this book is a comprehensive look at how to create quality long-term relationships using the eight components while moving students to become engaged as learners, capacity builders, and advocates in the communities they serve as well as the communities in which they live. Working Side by Side provides the framework and principals of developing student leadership through Alternative Break programs.

    The Church is really good at providing relief and charity but not always good at engaging in social justice issues. Working Side by Side is a resource which the Church can use to better prepare volunteers to engage in service that addresses justice concerns so their service has positive effects on the communities they serve.

    I encourage anyone interested in becoming more involved in their communities and the world around them, to read Working Side by Side. This book provides information and resources to help us become active citizens wherever we live and serve.

    Paulette West, Executive Director

    United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction

    Working Side by Side is a masterpiece! The book articulates in compelling ways the educational mission and transformational value of alternative break programs. It is unique because of its holistic framing of effective program design and critical learning.. The authors do a masterful job laying out all the critical components of a successful program and partnership. This book contributes to our understanding of the field in significant ways. Most importantly, the book is a great reminder that social justice work requires intentionality.

    Fanta Aw, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President

    Campus Life; Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, American University

    "This is not a collection of stories about students who have miraculously transformed communities and themselves in a single week. While Working Side By Side inspires, it does so by thoughtfully raising and addressing the major complexities and challenges inherent to this type of community engagement. The authors provide many practical tools and frameworks for ethical and effective Alternative Breaks. The book signals the maturation of a movement while reminding us about potential pitfalls."

    Thomas Schnaubelt, Ph.D., Executive Director

    Haas Center for Public Service, Assistant Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Resident Fellow, Branner Hall, Stanford University

    From the Foreword:

    “Working Side by Side is a ground-breaking social change manual and instruction guide for building alternative breaks that inspire change and life-long commitment to service. This is the book that I needed when I began my journey of building impactful alternative break programs – and I’m glad that is available now.”

    Tanya O. Williams, Deputy Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Community Engagement

    Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York

    “When college students use spring break to address a social issue, they overturn the drinking-and-partying stereotype and model active citizenship. These alternative breaks are happening; Sumka, Porter and Piacitelli have written the guide on how to make them excellent for students and communities alike.”

    Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs

    Tisch College, Tufts University

    “I and many other champions of service-learning have long had our doubts about short-term service including alternative breaks. Working Side by Side speaks directly and authoritatively to these concerns. Its focus on authentic relationships, capacity building, and preparing students to recognize and address systemic oppression is both philosophical and eminently practical. This volume is an essential resource for educators and student leaders who seek to engage students in alternative breaks.“

    Barbara Jacoby, Faculty Associate

    Leadership & Community Service-Learning, University of Maryland

    "This book is an incredibly sophisticated “do it yourself” manual about how students can design alternative break programs of meaning and purpose that will make a difference for the host communities and orient the participants to work for global justice on a continuing basis after their experience in the field.

    This book provides an analysis of how to develop active citizens who understand global issues and appreciate both the need to and the challenges in making change in their own lives and for the peoples of the world. It is designed for people who put community first and work to make that real in their own and others’ lives.

    The book includes a very precise identification of eight components of a quality break program ranging from the work to be done to the issues to be considered to the ways in which to continue to make a difference after the return.

    Those who follow this road map are not just designing a direct service project; they are working to be of assistance and, at the same, grounding the participants in understanding root causes and considering together how to work for justice. They are urged to examine issues of oppression, privilege and power unlike those on many trips who do no analysis and are encouraged only to feel good about themselves.

    Every step in this blueprint requires serious self examination and ongoing education. Participants are warned not to take on too much, displace local labor or show disrespect to the people with whom they are working. Their ongoing learning, their self analysis and their commitment to doing the work for change is an intended outcome of the project.

    A great book. Much more than a guide, it opens up options for spiritual reflection, new ways of going out in the world to make a difference in people’s lives."

    Ruth W. Messinger, President

    American Jewish World Service

    "A systematic exploration of the value of alternative spring breaks in potentially transforming lives, and of how to make them powerful reflective experiences, and not just transient tourism. The book examines the underlying theory and approaches to seriously engaging students, but it's also very practical, a valuable mix."

    Paul Loeb

    author Soul of a Citizen

    "This book provides an important history of the alternative breaks movement while also offering a useful framework and valuable resources for designing alternative break experiences that respond to critical social issues with aims towards social justice."

    Tania D. Mitchell

    University of Minnesota