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Leadership and Service Center

  • A group of students show off their paint covered overalls after a long day of work during an Alt 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 way to help others during the university’s fall, winter and spring breaks. Our 2020-2021 trips will serve across Columbia where participants will collaborate with local service providers to meet specific community needs. A great way to get to know Columbia better while serving with your fellow Gamecocks.

The trips, which focus on specific themes to create awareness of social issues, 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

A ninth component, simple living was added to make trips more sustainable.

Upcoming Alternative Break Opportunities

Winter Alternative Breaks (Jan. 22-24) - Two Trips! 

  • Trip One: Complexities of Homelessness in Columbia, SC
    • The mission of this local alternative break is to provide an opportunity for participants to engage in meaningful service to see firsthand how service can be a transformative experience for both themselves and the community they’re serving; we hope they will end up with an understanding of the complexities of homelessness, the intersectionality of many social issues, and be confident in their ability to advocate and serve as active citizens.
    • Participants will sleep in their own residence halls/apartments during the trip and will meet to complete service with local nonprofit organizations and reflection activities with their peers. Face coverings and physical distancing will be practiced during the trip.
    • Apply here by November 8th at midlnight!
  • Trip Two: Social Issue TBD in Columbia, SC
    • Participants will sleep in their own residence halls/apartments during the trip and will meet to complete service with local nonprofit organizations and reflection activities with their peers. Face coverings and physical distancing will be practiced during the trip.
    • Apply here by November 8th at midlnight!

Spring Alternative Breaks (Mar. 7-12)

  • Applications Open November 30th 

Apply for an Alternative Break Scholarship

Make sure to first apply to attend the trip using the form above. 

Apply to be a Learning Partner

Learning Partners are faculty, staff, or GAs selected to enhance the efforts of the trip leaders, engage the group in dialogue, and provide professional support before,during, and after the trip. 

  • Participate in all service projects, reflection activities, and provide insight and guidance to contribute to student learning
  • Take appropriate actions in case of emergency
  • Manage finances for meals and fuel (maintain all receipts)
  • Drive a 15-passenger van
  • Attend pre-trip training with LSC staff (1 hour)

Carly Zerr- 



Common Questions About Alternative Break Trips

Applications will be available each semester. As part of the application process, students will write several short essays about 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 day usually lasts from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Trip leaders work hard 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 group typically returns to the housing site to prepare 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 but groups return to UofSC with a strong bond and many amazing memories. Some time on the trip may be spent exploring cultural and sightseeing options of the destination, but the main focus is always service.

We strive to keep the cost of our trips affordable. Currently, the Alternative Fall Break trips cost between $30 to $80 per participant, while the Alternative Spring and Winter Break trips cost between $80 to $150 per participant. If participant fees are a concern, please contact Carly Zerr;

Cool! First, make sure you note that on your application so your leader can plan accordingly when shopping for food. The program will make every accommodation possible, but understand that we adhere to 'simple living' standards which means only $6 per day for food is budgeted for every individual participant. That often means we eat a lot of spaghetti, sandwiches, granola bars and other easy, inexpensive options. No one goes hungry, but we try to live simply so we can better serve those around us. Simple menus help us keep our trip costs low — they're one reason our alternative break trips are among the most affordable in the nation. If your food accommodations require more expensive items, you may be asked to supply some of those.

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. Whether you're 17 or 71, 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 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.

Although trips are not religiously affiliated, we stay at community centers, college campuses, and/or church halls. The lower-cost lodging options allows us to live simply and keep trip costs low for participants.

Yes. Your trip will not include any souvenirs so if you want them, you'll need to purchase them. Also, while the trip may supply some snacks, you may want a soda or something else when you stop for gas. Most trips will raise enough money to cover meals; however, some trips may not provide food on the drive to and from the site. Speak to your trip leader about how much extra money is appropriate and if all of your meals will be provided.

Have a question?

Please email Carly Zerr at or call 803-777-7130.


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