Alternative Break

Alternative Break

Alternative Break gives you the chance to participate in community-based projects that include engagement with members of the community and exposure to the problems, customs and culture of the region. Our teams are trained by community partners to understand the specific content of their service work and are prepared to carry out their tasks.

Each trip will be comprised of a diverse group of students who will get to know one another in pre-service meetings January – March. This is a great way to meet new people who are also passionate about service! Choose to serve locally, nationally, or internationally, receive pre-training, and take leadership roles on campus by participating in Alternative Break. PittServes is seeking students who want to make a difference, learn about themselves, and create a better community.


 Team meetings will begin in January in preparation for travel in March.


Please direct questions to

Upcoming Trips

Location Partner Focus
Hill District Global Brigades Community development and food insecurity
East Liberty Repair the World Social justice and environmental sustainability
Environmental Justice Washington County Center for Coalfield Justice and Washington & Jefferson College Environmental justice, sustainability, and the impact of extractive energy industries
Tennessee Cumberland Trail State Park Trail restoration and maintenance
New York City YSOP Outreach with those experiencing homelessness or food insecurity
Ecuador United Planet Community development and skills-based projects with the School of Computing & Information
Iceland Center for Ecological Living & Learning and Solheimar Eco-Village Sustainability and environmental impacts

As part of your Alternative Break experience, you will reflect on the impact and meaning of your service, transfer what you have learned to your own community, and embark on a course of lifelong civic engagement.

Advisory Board | Local Trips | National Trips


Advisory Board

Katelyn Bailey
Junior, Public Service and Administration
Cumberland Trail, Ecuador

I decided to go on Alternative Spring Break my Freshman and Sophomore years because I wanted to use my days off to help in whichever way I could. I decided to do Cumberland Trail my freshman year because I was interested in putting two of my favorite things together, the outdoors and service. My sophomore year I decided that I wanted my Spring Break to have an impact again, and was interested on learning about service on a global scale, so I applied for the Ecuador trip. Going on Ecuador taught me that in some places service isn't categorized as something special, its just what you do for one another. And that's what I hope for our country as well.
Ellie Cadden
Junior, Environmental Studies

I went to Iceland in May 2018 to serve on projects with a sustainability focus. There, we served with community partners CELL (Center for Ecological Living and Learning) and Sólheimar Eco-Village. This experience changed my perception of what ethical international service looks like and taught me how to build relationships with a community which is not my own.
Zachary Delaney
Sophomore, Chemistry and French

I went to the inaugural Iceland Alt Break in May of 2018. The trip for me was a standalone event in my Freshman year. I was already involved in PittServes when I applied, but this trip expanded my understanding of service, sustainability, culture, and more. It got me involved in types of service off-campus and on-campus that I had never been familiar with, which brought me into my Sophomore year with a new perspective on what I can do to serve.
Yifan Gu
Information Science

Amy Kelley
Senior, Applied Developmental Psychology & Social Work
Camp Kon-O-Kwee, Washington DC, Cumberland Trail

I love alt breaks for the sense of community. The communities we serve are strong, welcoming and it is life changing to learn about them and be a part of their community. I also love the tight knit bonds of the Pitt community and the groups of students I get to meet and be friends with. These community experiences have impacted me greatly and I can't imagine my Pitt experience without alt break.
Geneva Kenney
Senior, Communication-Rhetoric

I’m from Pittsburgh, born and raised. My alt break trip was impactful because it allowed me to humble and be grateful for what I have (family, friends, access to food, etc.). I had a chance to meet genuine people and it opened up my mind about being able to listen and ridding myself of preconceived notions that I may have of people. For me personally, Alt Break Iceland was the trip to get me out of my comfort zone!
Emma Larrabee
Sophomore, Social Work
YSOP - Washington DC

Lalit Molleti
Junior, International & Area Studies and Psychology
Washington DC

Alt Break is important to me as the environment that it places you in is unlike other experiences on campus. The entire week is dedicated to the single goal of learning about communities and the various efforts that organizations are contributing to focus on a single issue. The organizations we worked with showed various aspects that I would never have considered as being crucial to understanding the issue that we focused on. Alt Break is a great way to be conscientious and considerate of the world and our ability to initiate change in the world.
Ra'Van Williams
Senior, Chemical Engineering

I cannot rave enough about how wonderful an experience alternative break was for me. It provided me with the opportunity to make a meaningful impact abroad, a goal I had been trying to accomplish since first traveling internationally. Such is equally important when striving to be a good global citizen. Likewise, it exposed me to new cultures, allowed me to form lasting friendships, and has instilled a need in me to continue serving.
Tate Yawitz
Sophomore, Biology and Philosophy

My Alt Break trip to Iceland was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had while at Pitt. It shifted my views about what it means to engage in ethical and sustainable service by showing me how indirect service is often overlooked as a means of making a difference in a community. Being able to learn about and experience Icelandic culture while serving alongside like-minded peers was an invaluable, unforgettable opportunity.


What do we do on Alternative Break?


During the week of Alternative Spring Break, a team of Pitt students participate in daily service projects with local nonprofit organizations and community partners. All transportation is coordinated through the Office of PittServes. The sponsoring agency gives an orientation that outlines the social issues that impact the community.


Students participate in intentional team building and community service with members of the organizations served. Fall Break and Spring Break options are currently offered for all Pitt students. Each program determines the travel schedule, number of hours served, and continued engagement. Alternative Break is both drug-free and alcohol-free.


Past Local Trips


Students have the opportunity to roll up their sleeves in and around Pittsburgh each day throughout Spring Break to make a difference locally. Trips in Pittsburgh take place from 9:00am – 5:30pm daily and students gather as a group for dinner and then return to their residence hall or apartment for the evening. Students traveling just outside of Pittsburgh to the YMCA Camp Kon-o-kwee experience the camp fully with service daily and evening dinners, DIY service, and camp fires! Students who want to learn more about their surrounding communities should consider serving in one of our Pittsburgh region Alternative Break Trips.


Past National Trips


Students who traveled to Washington, D.C. spent the week serving at Youth Serving Opportunity Partners. This organization provides support services to individuals experiencing homelessness in the area. Students lodged in Washington, D.C. at a local hostel and worked as a team throughout the week.


Students who want to get their hands dirty and leave a lasting environmental impact should consider serving at the Cumberland Trail in Tennessee. Over the past 10 years Pitt students have built miles of trails during Alternative Break, and the trail is also a great way to get to see the country side! All students interested in this trip should be in good physical shape and be prepared to hike ~5 miles per day.


Each of our national trips offers a day of sight seeing in the local community.


Past International Trips

Traveling to Latin America, Pitt students stood on both sides of the equator and had a lasting impact. Service projects supported the communities of Quito and Chilcapamba, Ecuador. The 2018 trips offered a general trip for students and a specific opportunity for students from the School for Computing and Information Science.


Upcoming Trips

Application, selection, team building sessions, and pre-service training for spring break 2020 will take place in November 2019 – March 2020. Build your break experience with new friends, new ideas, and new locations!

May Break trips will be announced in November 2019 with application, selection, and training taking place in November 2019-April 2020.

Costs may vary for trips and scholarships are available to students who are accepted to the program.
Funding is still being finalized at this time. The full cost of the trips will likely be: $30 – $50 for local trips; $350 – $500 for national trips; and $2500 for international trips. Nearly all costs are covered through the registration fee. Some meals, additional student spending, or souvenirs are not covered by this fee.