For most college students, Thanksgiving break is a time to go home and recharge before the end of the semester. More than 80 University of Missouri students had a different idea and will be hitting the road for a week of volunteer service.

For most college students, Thanksgiving break is a time to go home and recharge before the end of the semester. More than 80 University of Missouri students had a different idea and will be hitting the road for a week of volunteer service.

Eighty four Mizzou students with Mizzou Alternative Breaks, a student-led program, will spend their break from college in ten communities across the country, working on community service projects from New Mexico to Maryland.

“Mizzou Alternative Breaks provides students the opportunity to gain a wider perspective of the world while immersed in service to people and communities,” said Jeff Zeilenga, dean of students. “I am proud that so many Mizzou student leaders choose to spend their vacations serving others and that each year the program grows in popularity.”

Mizzou Alternative Breaks participants learn about important community issues including education, health and homelessness. Volunteer activities include:

Providing therapeutic programs to individuals with disabilities in New York City and Houston

Building homes in Louisiana and Florida

Doing restoration projects at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee

Serving the homeless population in Silver Spring, Maryland

Teaching programs at the Women’s Intercultural Center in New Mexico
Working with youth development programs in Colorado, Texas and Michigan

“Mizzou Alternative Breaks is led completely by students. From the board of directors to the site leaders, every participant is a Mizzou student,” said Cinnamon Langley, director of leadership and service for Mizzou Alternative Breaks and a senior studying psychology. “This organization provides students real-world experiences and a chance to be a leader.”

Founded in 1991, Mizzou Alternative Breaks sends groups of students on service trips during weekend, Thanksgiving, spring, summer and winter breaks. Participants enter communities with the mindset of “serve, don’t help” — one of the program’s guiding principles.

In 2014, Mizzou Alternative Breaks announced a partnership with MU Extension and pledged to bring service trips to all of Missouri’s 114 counties by 2020. Earlier this month, 84 students completed community service projects in 14 counties, bringing the total number of Missouri counties served to 111. Students will complete projects in the remaining three counties this spring.