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Alternative Spring Break at The University of Maine

Promising Approaches

Implement programs that provide students with the opportunity to apply what they learn by performing community service.

Support activities as well as student and community organizations providing opportunities for students to engage in their campuses and community.

Encourage student participation in leadership as well as campus and community governance.

Encourage and support interactions across cultural differences.

Involve students in developing and sustaining campus/community partnerships


Through the year, Alternative Spring Break (ASB) at UMAINE works with the community to provide direct service through volunteer efforts in Maine.  During the first week of the university’s two-week spring break, students travel to different parts of the country to work and complete service projects in a variety of areas.  Some examples are:  The Gay Men’s Health care Center in New York City; an AIDS hospice in New Orleans; a drug and alcohol treatment facility in Philadelphia; and the Washington Home and Hospice in north west Washington,D.C.  The University of Maine has been sending as many as six groups a year to sites outside of maine to do ASB service projects.  On an annual basis, 60 or more students and staff are involved.  Each group has a student site leader and a faculty or staff advisor.  Since March 1998,  we have sent approximately 500 representatives from UMaine to many locations around the United States where we have volunteered our time.    The participants raise all of their own funds for the trips.  Alternative Spring Break is a member of BreakAway, a national organization that assists campuses in developing quality alternative break programs.  The mission of UM’s ASB program is to promote service on the local, regional, national, and international levels through break-oriented programs which immerse students in often vastly different cultures, heighten social awareness, and advocate lifelong social skills.  As a member of BreakAway, UMaine ASB adheres to eight essential components.  These include:  a commitment to alcohol- and drug-free activities; a focus on diversity; providing direct volunteer service; offering training and education to volunteers; reflection; and reorientation upon return.

Special Features

Civic Learning Goals

  • Civic knowledge:  Recognize the variety of characteristics and actions of effective, participating citizens; identify, define, and describe local problems and their connections to problems on the state and national levels; discuss and explore the variety of ways an individual can help solve social problems; knowledge about community affairs, political issues, and the processes by which citizens effect change; knowledge of social movements and strategies for change; understanding and awareness of public  community issues. 
  • Civic skills:  Process and evaluate information for objectivity, accuracy, and point of view; apply information to effective efforts to help solve social problems; assess the consequences of and appropriate context for personal action; further develop and sue critical-thinking skills and ethical reasoning to make informed and responsible decisions; further develop and use verbal and written communication skills to convey ideas, facts, and opinions in an effective and reasonable manner; work cooperatively with others and develop effective team building practices; effectively advocate individual and shared interests; practice public speaking; contact public officials; organize meetings to ensure that all participants have a voice in the process; active listening/perspective taking; know how to become informed about community affairs, political issues, and processes by which citizens effect change; competencies in achieving group goals; forge coalitions among those with varied interests; examine structural causes of social problems and seek solutions; know how to effectively promote their own goals in contentious political arenas; work together to overcome problems; pursue an array of cultural, social, political, and religious interests and beliefs; organize people to address social issues. 
  • Civic values/attitudes:  Willingness to enter dialogue with others about different points of view and to understand diverse perspectives; tolerant of ambiguity and resist simplistic answers to complex questions; respect what we have in common as Americans; recognize and respect the different backgrounds of Americans; develop a sense of personal efficacy; understand that rights and freedoms require accepting civic responsibilities; foster within themselves the attachment to the principles of freedom and equality on which our nation rests; develop an affective or emotional attachment to the community—a feeling that one matters, as a voice and a stake in public affairs, and therefore wants to be a contributing member of the community; social trust, a believe that most people are generally fair and helpful rather than out for their own gain; respect for individual and group identities; concern for the greater good; contribute to groups in civil society in which Americans participate in public service; concern for the rights and welfare of others; social responsibility; confidence in their capacity to make a difference; readiness to contribute personally to civic and political action; striking a balance between their own interests and the common good; recognizing the importance of and practicing civic duties such as respect for the rule of law; recognizing and acknowledging their self-worth and interest in collective decisions and identifying their personal stake in public deliberation and decision-making; seeing themselves as members of a public, a community, and the ability to recognize that the community is a group of people who belong to each other because they share both a heritage and a hope.

Contact Information

Mary C. Skaggs, Director
Student Employment and Volunteers Programs
The University of maine

Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools: Education for Democracy