Alternative Breaks


The Volunteer Center’s Alternative Breaks (AB) program cultivates a unique opportunity for students and staff/faculty advisors to engage in service learning and volunteerism in communities outside of the Los Angeles area. These service learning trips help participants make tangible connections between what they learn in the classroom and what they will encounter once they have jobs and experiences outside the university. In addition, these trips allow USC  to create valuable, long-lasting relationships in the communities in which we work.

The Volunteer Center has offered USC students the opportunity to explore numerous issues across the U.S. since 1992, when we began to take students to the Navajo Nation in Utah. Since then, we have built long-lasting partnerships with governmental, non-profit and community organizations throughout the country. The opportunity to travel while engaging in community service continues to be an important element of the unique USC experience. Every year, the locations of the trips changes based on student interest, community need, and our budget. You can see which service trips we have hosted in past years here and read about our current trips below.


The  Alternative Break programs delve into some of the most pressing issues facing our generation today.

Learn about our trips based on their service focus: Learn about our trips based on their location:
Cultural Erosion in Native Populations
Disaster Relief Efforts
Environmental Conservation
Homeless and Poverty
Justice System Reform and At-Risk-Youth
Rural Development & Education
Youth & Education




Trip Title: “Constructing Education: Infrastructural Development of Rural Schools”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Deadline: October 15, 2018 @ 11:59 pm
Trip Dates: March 8, 2019 – March 16, 2019 (Flight departs from LAX on Friday at 10:55 pm)
Trip Capacity: 13 students
We will not ask Professors to excuse any students from their classes, exams, or assignments. We recommend that you make sure that your Spring classes do not have any such commitments on Friday, March 8th in the evening. 

Guatemala is an exotic and visually inspiring country with huge volcano’s reaching up to 12,000 feet over crystalline lakes and picturesque towns. Once part of the Mayan Empire, Guatemala is a culturally rich and diverse country that is home to over 20 indigenous languages and a population that is comprised of somewhere around 50% Indigenous people who still maintain their style of dress, traditions, language, and culture.


However, in spite of its rich environmental resources, Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in the world in terms of GDP. Many Guatemalans travel far and wide to work for large landowning corporations and make only enough money to put food on the table. Over 50% of Guatemalan children suffer from malnutrition and Guatemala’s educational system is currently ranked second among the worst Central American and Caribbean countries. Many children drop out after their first year of school, and there is another mass exodus during the middle school years. Many children lack adequate resources and encouragement on their studies, and families can choose to pull their children out of school to work.

Participants of ASB Guatemala will travel to Retalhuleu, a city in southwestern Guatemala, and partner with a local construction company to upgrade or build necessary structures for the schools in the community. Students will get to spend time with the children in the mornings working on various activities with them and in the afternoon students will transition to assisting with the construction project. If you have more questions about ASB Guatemala send an email to

Approximate Cost: $1,500 USD* per participant

Itinerary: ASB Guatemala_Itinerary Draft  from last year!

Info Sessions for Guatemala:



Trip Title: “Bridging the Gap”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Monday, October 29, 2018 @ 11:59 pm
Trip Dates: Approximately March 9, 2019-March 16, 2019

In more recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest numbers since the Great Depression of the 1930s with approximately 80,600 homeless people sleeping each night in a New York City shelter system. This includes 15,000 families with 23,000 homeless children

This rise in homelessness is sadly often neglected by people and the media. There are multiple ways for people to provide help through social service groups, medical clinics, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc. Now here’s your opportunity to serve and provide assistance to the homeless in New York from March 10th-17th, 2018.

Through Alternative Spring Break New York, students will have the opportunity to travel to New York and provide hands-on service and aid to the homeless. By partnering with a non-profit organization, we will be given a chance to lend a helping hand to the community and attempt to make an impact. By assisting those in need, participants will hear their stories and learn about the root causes of homelessness. Students will also more about the rich culture and history of New York by visiting the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum! If you have more questions about ASB New York send an email to

Approximate Cost: $1,200 USD* per participant

Info Sessions for New York:
Monday 9/24         @7:30 pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  




Orcas (2)

Trip Title: “Conservation Nation – Exploring Sustainable Environmental Practices in Washington ”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
 Tuesday, January 22, 2019 @ 11:59 pm
Trip Dates: Approximately March 9, 2019-March 16, 2019

“A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

ASB Orcas Island focuses on exploring sustainable practices that can create a better understanding of preserving our natural environments. USC students will be traveling to Orcas Island, located in northwest Washington and just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Island with over 5000 acres of land and is known for its distinctive natural beauty.

Our service trip provides the opportunity to serve the park rangers by working hands-on to restore the environment within Moran State Park. Past projects have included trail restoration and construction on the scenic Mt. Constitution trail. ASB Orcas Island is an exciting opportunity for students who love the outdoors. Not only will students better the area, but also be able to explore everything the island had to offer. Moran features beautiful trails, lakes, and waterfalls, which participants will get to enjoy on their time off. The island hosts a variety of adventures like kayaking, biking, and hiking that participants can take part in. In the past, participants have said that working and living in such a remote environment “puts the world in perspective.”

Students will spend a week volunteering in Orcas Island at Moran State Park, as well as a one-day stay in Seattle to explore the city. This will allow students to have hands-on and holistic experience with sustainable practices in the state park as well as the city. If you have more questions about ASB Orcas Island send an email to

Find out what the ASB Orcas experience is like! Check out this blog or this blog from ASB Orcas Island participants!  Read about ASB Orcas Island in the local newspaper

Approximate Cost: $800 USD* per participant

Info Sessions for Orcas Island:
Monday 9/24        @ 7:30 pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  
Friday 10/5           @12:00 pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  
Friday 10/12         @12:00 pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  


Trip Title: “Juvenile Justice Reform & At-Risk Youth”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Deadline: Monday, October 29, 2018 @ 11:59 pm
Trip Dates: Approximately March 9, 2019-March 16, 2019

Every year, an estimated 2.1 million under the age of 18 are incarcerated every year, and it is apparent just hours away from campus. At-risk youth in San Francisco is one of the most vulnerable populations in the City. At such a transitional age, they are at risk of not transitioning successfully into adulthood or reaching adulthood at all. They face significant challenges, such as unemployment, homelessness, lack of basic academic and work readiness skills, that often lead to involvement in the justice system.

The incarceration crisis we have in our nation, especially among our young people, is sadly often ignored. We can help in a multitude of ways by listening to the stories of those affected, changing misconstrued narratives, and working with organizations that give at-risk youth the opportunities to pursue a better future. Here’s your opportunity to do so in San Francisco from March 10th-17th, 2018.

Participants of this Alternative Spring Break will have the opportunity to travel to San Francisco, work with at-risk youth, and learn about America’s juvenile justice system. Before leaving, students will have the opportunity to learn about the school to prison pipeline, race and socioeconomic positions that play a role in the history of incarceration among juveniles. This will be done through team meetings and field trips to nonprofits like Homeboy Industries.

While in San Francisco, students will spend mornings partnering with a non-profit organization that aims to give previously incarcerated and at-risk youth artistic and educational opportunities. In the afternoons and evenings, we will explore the rich culture and history of San Francisco and other organizations that do amazing work in the same realm.

If you have more questions about ASB San Francisco or would like to RSVP for an information session send an email to

See what participants on ASB San Francisco experienced through this visual journal created by Brian Hyun.

Approximate Cost: $600 USD* per participant

Info Sessions for San Francisco:

Wednesday 10/10@ 4:00 pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  
Friday 10/12         @12:00 pm Click to RSVP  in SKS 410 (unless trip leader states otherwise)  



Trip Title: “Alternative Winter Break: Exploring Obstacles to Education in India”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Deadline: Friday, September 21, 2018  @  11:59pm
Trip Dates: December 13, 2018 (11am departure) – December 29, 2018

Ever wanted to travel to a country with delicious food, beautiful attractions, and friendly locals, all while volunteering in the local community? If so, AWB India may be for you!

Through AWB India, USC students have an opportunity to work within Banjara Basti, an Indian community in Sikar, Rajasthan. According to a 2011 census, about one in six Indian city residents live in an area of high poverty or in a dwelling with unsanitary conditions, which is roughly 64 million people. For people living in poverty, access to educational opportunities is limited. Students will try to learn and to understand the barriers to economic and educational development in India and to implement realistic solutions in one small community.

During the week, AWB India participants will be working in partnership with the NGO Adventures and Volunteering in India. AWB participants will collaboratively design a curriculum to teach the community of Banjara Basti. Students will primarily instruct within the established primary schools in hopes to empower the children to play an active role in developing their own community through their education and to inspire a passion for learning.

By leveraging the strengths of each participant, we will create a culturally relevant, sustainable curriculum that can be used by future volunteers at AVI to continue Banjara Basti’s economic development. Following AVI’s mission, we strive to help the community help itself so they can continue to grow and empower themselves long after our group’s two-week stay. Past projects include teaching children basic English and math, creating an inspirational mural for the classroom, installing water filters in the school and the local community, raising awareness about basic hygiene practices, and collecting clothing and educational donations to give to local children.

On weekends, participants will spend time traveling to Pushkar by camel, shopping in Jaipur and Sikar, and visiting the Taj Mahal (you cannot go to India without seeing it!). In addition to working with children and weekend travel, participants will be immersed directly in Indian culture. AWB India participants will have the opportunity to participate in Hindi classes, traditional Indian cooking and dressing workshops, henna painting, and yoga & meditation classes. Participants will also live with a local family on their village farm in order to learn more about the economic and cultural practices of the region.

If you have any more questions about AWB India please email Read about AWB India in a participant’s blog!

Estimated Cost: $2,500 USD* per participant





Condado, San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos/PRNG-PAO)

Trip Title: “Alternative Winter Break: Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico”
To Apply Click Here: CLOSED
Deadline: September 16, 2018 11:59pm
Trip Dates: December 13, 2018 – December 24, 2018

It has been almost a year since Hurricane Maria, one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit Puerto Rico, battered the U.S. territory with heavy rain, flash floods and winds that blew up to 155 mph. It killed an estimated 3,000 people, with many of them being homeless and/or elderly. The hurricane has left thousands without food, water, and electricity. Today, many people are still negatively impacted by the effects of the hurricane.

This winter break, we are partnering with All Hands Volunteers to rebuild, repair, and reseal the roofs and homes of those affected by Hurricane Maria. Volunteers will be taught basic demolition and construction skills as well as explore Puerto Rican culture through local community organizations.

If you have any more questions about AWB Puerto Rico please email

Estimated Cost: $650*

*The approximate cost for Puerto Rico includes only a one-way flight since this trip ends on December 24th. Students will book their flights home for the holidays separately. Staff will assist students in coordinating their return flights.


*Alternative Break costs may change slightly in the future. These preliminary estimates are presented for the purposes of helping students decide which trips fit within their budget. Fundraising and partial grant opportunities are available, for more details visit “Fundraising for AB Trips.”

Follow us on Facebook or subscribe to our Newsletter for updates about ASB 2018. For general questions about the Alternative Spring Break Program, email us at For more information about specific trips, email them directly or RSVP for a trip info session!

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