So, what are your plans for this short week away from school? Are you going to be sunning and sailing, reading a book on a beach somewhere? Or do you have a trip planned to Vegas or LA or NYC for some fun? Or will you be working at your job and preparing for next term? Maybe you’re going to keep it low key by spending your days relaxing at home. Well, some OSU students are going to have a pretty incredible experience this coming week doing an alternative to all of that: Alternative Spring Break.

Instead of spending the week with the usual spring break activities, three teams of 12 to 20 OSU students are going to spend their spring breaks serving others in several Pacific Northwest communities. The participants on the first trip go to Yakima, Washington to learn about the city and the local Native American Reservation, Yakama Nation, and help nonprofit organizations there serve residents. The participants in the second alternative spring break experience this year are headed to San Francisco to work with the local homeless population. Finally, the students on third trip are staying close to home to restore vital ecosystems near Newport, Oregon. The trips cost $120 to $350 for a week of lodging and most meals as well as all programming and transportation, pretty minimal.

Why would someone devote their spring break to learning about Native American culture in Washington, helping the homeless in California, or cleaning up the beaches in Oregon, you may ask? Well, for one thing, Alternative Spring Break is a great way to engage in a meaningful service experience while having fun and traveling. It’s a way to make a difference. Participants will challenge themselves and form lasting friendships. And as a bonus beyond the inherent value of the experience, Alternative Spring Break is a way to gain leadership experience that can go straight on to a resume in a compressed amount of time. In a week, with some preparation before and debrief time after, students will gain knowledge, insight, and leadership skills that an employer would be excited to hear about in an interview.

So, next year, ask your advisor about going on an Alternative Spring Break trip or apply directly through the Center for Civic Engagement, You’ll get more out of the experience than you ever thought possible.