COMPASS HEADINGS is the Alternative Break Program of The Center for Community Engagement ad Service-Learning. Alternative Breaks are an opportunity for students to travel off campus (usually), do service work together, and to reflect more deeply on themselves and societal issues that face us. Being with a group of students focused on performing service and reflecting on that work can be one of the most meaningful experiences one can have. It can also simply be fun to go to a new place, get to know new people and work together to make a meaningful change for an individual or an area. All trips are substance free and participants are expected to abide by these rules.

Compass Headings trips come under the Civic Engagement area in the Compass model. They always have a reflective component, often with readings and at times with an associated Readers College or some other credit bearing opportunity. There are also at times opportunities for Civic Leadership by helping to organize and lead the trips as well as becoming involved on campus or on site with policy issues that are encountered on the trip. While traditionally occurring during Spring Break, some trips have occurred at other times.

Past International Trips

Since 2009, CCESL has offered international service-learning trips to Nicaragua and Jamaica. Our students and staff have helped to build homes, work in schools, and have participated in cultural exchange. Working with a local community organization gives volunteers a chance to contribute their skills while absorbing the stories and strength of people working to build a better future for their community.

We are currently collaborating with the Center for Global Education to identify and create new international service-learning opportunities.

Domestic March Break Opportunities

Mariam Boyd Elementary School, Warrenton, N.C.

Trip Leader: TBA

Students will spend the week working at this rural elementary school in a variety of capacities including one-on-one tutoring, group reading/math help and general classroom assistance duties. HWS students prepare crafts and activities for children to participate in during the after-school program run by the Norlina Methodist Church. The church also serves as the host site where meals are prepared and consumed and reflection activities occur. Cots are provided but please bring a sleeping bag and pillow. The group can expect to be warmly welcomed by the entire community and lasting friendships are established with the children and teachers. There may be a Readers College associated with this trip, which will require some readings associated with poverty, class and race, discussions before and during the trip and a short paper integrating the readings and trip upon return. The trip leaves on Saturday of Spring Break and returns the following Saturday.

Projected Cost: $100 - 150

Finger Lakes, NY: Wake the Farm ASB

Trip Leader: Sarah Meyer, Finger Lakes Institute

Site: HWS Fribolin Farm

Description of service project: Take respite on the farm! The mission of this ASB trip is to support sustainable agriculture and become more aware of our local and regional food system. The Finger Lakes Institute invites HWS students to spend Spring Break volunteering for on the HWS Fribolin Farm and learning as you work. HWS students will help with waking up the farm from winter and cleanup as the farm prepares for spring planting. Since 2012, the Finger Lakes Institute has coordinated and led an annual ‘Wake the Farm’ Alternative Spring Break Trip for Hobart and William Smith College students to dedicate an entire week of service to supporting the local and regional farm community. Students are encouraged to source their meal plan for the week as locally and sustainably as possible. In 2014, cooking parties prior to the trip were arranged in order to prepare food for consumption in advance. Students can expect to explore self-sufficiency, get dirty, and exert themselves, but also learn techniques of farming and enjoy the fruits of their labor and new friends. Transportation will be provided to and from the farm daily. For more information, contact Finger Lakes Institute Community Outreach Coordinator Sarah Meyer at Visit the Wake the Farm blog for a glimpse into ‘Wake the Farm’ of years past.

Projected Cost: $100 - 150

Lyons, NY: Rural & Migrant Ministry

(Educational emphasis - limited spots available)

Are you interested in immigration issues or the dynamics of food production? In this trip students will travel to Lyons, N.Y., and work with an organization called Rural & Migrant Ministry. RMM is a state-wide, non-profit organization that advocates for social change by educating students on the working conditions of migrant farm workers. Students will get the chance to stand with workers from South and Central American countries (including Mexico, Jamaica, and Haiti), and examine the various power and privilege dynamics between large agribusinesses and the rural workers. The trip leaves on the first Monday of spring break and returns on Friday. Meals and lodging provided on site.

Projected Cost: $100 - 150

Virginia: Pocahontas State Park

Trip Leader: TBA

Spend the week at this beautiful state park outside of Richmond, Va. Past projects include clearing land for an educational nature trail, installing drainage pipes, building bridges and removing/re-building/replacing fishing piers. You will stay in a lodge (sleeping bags and mattresses on the floor) that has a large kitchen. Participants pair up to do dinners co-op style and nightly reflections are held after dinner each night. One day is devoted to sight-seeing in the area. If you like the outdoors, this is the trip for you. Trip leaves Saturday morning of spring break and returns the following Saturday.

Projected Cost: $100 - 150

Habitat for Humanity North Carolina

Location: TBA
Trip Leader: TBA

Students will spend the week working to build or rehabilitate a house that will house a low-income family.


Are you going to be in the Boston, Washington, D.C. or NYC areas over break? That does not mean you can't have your own mini-ASB while you are there. For a few hours, a day, or the week, there are organizations where you can lend a hand. The following web sites will help you be civically engaged if you are headed to these major metropolitan areas over break:

Boston: We connect people with causes, and you'll find thousands of ways to help make a difference in your communities. Look for specific causes (like environmental), or ways to participate (like events).

Greater D.C. Cares is the leading coordinator of volunteering and business philanthropy in the Washington region. We are a network of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of nonprofits and businesses working together to make this the best place to live and work for all who live here.

Volunteer Fairfax
For more than 35 years, Volunteer Fairfax has been the heart of volunteering in Fairfax County, Virginia. With a personal touch, the Center matches the skills and interests of volunteers and donors to the needs of local nonprofit organizations, helping to build a better community through service. Through a variety of programs and services, Volunteer Fairfax strengthens the capacity of its nonprofit members and offers meaningful volunteer opportunities for local citizens.

VolunteerMatch is a leader in the nonprofit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer, and business leaders committed to civit engagement. Our popular service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 61,000 nonprofit organizations.

One Brick: Volunteering with us is easy. There's no paperwork. No orientations. No hassles. Simply check out our event calendar for upcoming volunteer opportunities. When you see something you're interested in joining, just RSVP online.

New York City:

NYCares: New York Cares was founded by a group of friends who wanted to take action against the serious social issues facing our city. Their goal was to meet pressing community needs by mobilizing caring New Yorkers in volunteer service - and this continues to be our mission today.

Volunteernyc: The Mayor's Volunteer Center and United Way New York City are proud to present to serve the dual purpose of providing meaningful volunteer opportunities for New Yorkers and providing nonprofit organizations in New York City the opportunity to post their volunteer needs and publicize the services provided by their organizations. By tailoring this website specifically to New York City, our database will allow you to search within your own borough and zipcode and get travel information for posted opportunities. The mission of is to help even the busiest New Yorker become a volunteer by giving them a great place to start.

One Brick: See the description for Washington.


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