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Leadership and Service Center

  • A group of students pose outside of Transitions Homeless Center after a long day of work during an Alternative Break trip.

Alternative Break Program

Use your fall, winter, or spring break to engage in meaningful community service with fellow students. As part of the community-building alternative break experience, you'll travel to a community that's in need of assistance.

Give your break to help a community in need.

Alternative Break Trips are a unique opportunity to help others during the university’s fall, winter, and spring breaks. 

Alternative Break trips allow students to collaborate with local service providers to meet specific community needs. Student participants will serve in different areas in the southeast region and learn about social issues in other areas and bring that knowledge back to USC. Alternative Breaks are a great way to serve, learn, and advocate for underserved populations with your fellow Gamecocks.

The trips focus on specific themes to create awareness of social issues. Trips are centered on Break Away’s® Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break which include:

  • strong direct service
  • orientation
  • education
  • training
  • reflection
  • reorientation
  • diversity
  • alcohol- and other drug-free

Future Alternative Break Trips

We are looking forward to working with students like you to plan future Alternative Break trips. Please contact Bridget Duignan to share your input for our Fall 2024 trip!

Past Alternative Breaks

  • Winter 2024: New Orleans, LA
    • Opportunity Housing
  • Fall 2022: Atlanta, GA
    • Housing & Food Insecurity
  • Winter 2022: Columbia SC (Local)
    • Food Insecurity
  • Fall 2021: Columbia, SC (Local)
    • Housing Insecurity


Apply to be a Trip Leader

Alternative Break Trip Leaders are students of the University of South Carolina who commit to two semesters of leadership in the Alternative Breaks Programs. Alternative Break Trip Leaders embark on the opportunity to plan a service trip around a theme and destination of their choosing for either fall, winter, or spring break.

For more information, please contact Bridget Duignan.


Brewer Endowment Scholarship

Scholarship opportunities are available through the Brewer Family Endowment Fund. Provided by Cason Brewer, the Brewer Family Scholarship is available for students to apply for to help fund their alternative break experience.  Cason believes that all students should have the opportunity to serve communities and experience alternative break experiences, and this scholarship may help alleviate or reduce hindrance associated with cost. Applications will be available for selected trips and a link to apply will be available during that trip's registration period.


Common Questions About Alternative Break Trips

Applications will be available each semester.

For Trip Leaders, students will submit a brief application with semester availability. After submitting a complete application, students will receive a confirmation email. Students will be notified via email of next steps, which may include an interview with Leadership and Service Center staff about their interest in being a trip leader and service initiatives they are interested in or passionate about.

For Alternative Break Participants, students will complete an application stating their interest in the alternative break to accompany general and demographic information. After submitting a complete application, students will receive a confirmation email. Students will be notified via email of their application status approximately two weeks after the application period closes.

Each Alternative Break trip begins and ends with a travel day to the destination. Days within the trip typically last from 9:00A until 5:00P. Alternative Break Trip Leaders work to coordinate unique service opportunities that meet the need of the community, align with the service theme of the trip, and are meaningful for participants. After the day's service is complete, the entire group will return to the housing site to enjoy dinner as a group and participate in reflection to help process the day.

There will be some early mornings and late nights throughout the trip. Groups on these trips aim to return to USC with a strong bond and fulfilling memories. With primary focus on service, some time on the trip may be spent exploring cultural and sightseeing options of the destination.

We strive to keep the cost of our trips affordable for all participants. We also offer scholarship opportunities! For more information, please contact Bridget Duignan.

Please note any dietary restrictions on your application so Trip Leaders can plan accordingly when shopping for food and planning meals.

No. All trips are alcohol- and drug-free. During service immersion experiences such as these, we seek to create an inclusive environment that all can participate in and enjoy. All participants must follow the alcohol- and drug-free nature of our trips.

All transportation will be provided by a University of South Carolina staff member or student leader who has been cleared through the university and has completed and passed van driver training. Your chariot will be one of the university's 15-passenger vans.

Trips typically stay at community centers, college campuses, and/or church halls. Trips are not religiously affiliated. These lower-cost lodging options allow us to live simply and keep trip costs low for participants.

Yes. Your trip will not provide additional souvenirs. While our trip will provide snacks and refreshments, it may be in the best interest to bring spending money or your preferred snacks/refreshments. Trip leaders will be able to provide extra insight into recommended amounts of spending money.

Yes! Alternative Break programs satisfy Graduation with Leadership Distinction for participants and trip leaders. Contact the CIEL office or  for more information.

Have a question?

Please email Bridget Duignan.


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