Alternative Breaks come back from pandemic break


Students who attended the Leadership Through Education Alternative Spring Break pose with the tiles they painted: from left to right, freshman Grace Bautch, freshman Emily Thatcher, freshman Alicia Korff, freshman Kennedy Scott, junior Jacob Danek, sophomore Jennifer Woods, sophomore Leann Rielle, freshman Jaclyn Walling, freshman Autumn Emmendorfer, junior Kristina Slifco, senior Rachel Norman and freshman Kailey Adams. (Courtesy Photo)

Central Michigan University’s Alternative Breaks program is back and looking to rebuild after two years of operations hindered by COVID-19. 

The program is an opportunity for CMU students to volunteer in the community and beyond, doing hands-on service. 

According to Morgan Reigler, treasurer and secretary of Alternative Breaks, the program is opening their Friday sessions again this year, the first of which is scheduled for Oct. 15. These “Friday Breaks” tackle a different form of outreach every week into December, going everywhere from the Commission on Aging to Hopewell Ranch in Weidman.  

The biggest change, however, Reigler said, is the reintroduction of weeklong service projects. These longer projects, while exploring outside the local area used for day trips, are limited to a 12 to 15 hour drive away from the school as a precaution for any positive cases of COVID-19 while on site. 

The week-long projects are for anyone looking for a “great opportunity to learn, build communities, and do direct service,” Reigler said.

Every trip or project is prefaced with an orientation, group meeting, and kickoff to prepare participants for the task at hand, Reigler said. Each group is ten people—eight crew members and two crew leaders.

All students at CMU are eligible to volunteer as part of a work crew, she said, but crew leaders are in high demand as well. To become a crew leader, Reigler said previous experience with the program is ideal, but applicable leadership experience is sufficient. 

Along with the rest of the world, Alternative Breaks was forced to pause operations in early 2020 to keep staff and volunteers safe and prevent the spread of the virus. 

Reigler said this was a significant roadblock, limiting their operations in 2020 to virtual meetings instead of making the approximately eighteen planned service projects a reality. Their virtual meetings were used to continue educating members on social justice issues. 

The program also used this time to make room on their executive board for a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion chairperson, she said.

As the pandemic became more manageable in 2021, the organization was able to reopen their day-long local projects, given that these are far easier than overnight projects to incorporate with strict social distancing and masking guidelines for the protection of all involved. 

Because of the Alternative Breaks program, CMU is nationally recognized for providing hands-on service projects, Reigler said. 

The incapacitated operations of the last two years have created a new challenge for the program’s leaders to rebuild the program, and they are aiming to build from the ground up. 

“Our goal is to start a foundation,” Reigler said. 

Students interested in volunteering can get regular updates on Alternative Breaks’ Instagram page @cmichab, sign up on their Engage Central page, call (989) 774-7685 or email with questions.