Illinois State University began an alternative spring break program in the late1990s as a staff-led initiative. In 2000 the program became completely student-led. This year 135 students participated in the program by serving communities across the United States in Atlanta, Georgia; Memphis, Tennessee; and Mullins, West Virginia.

The group that ventured to Atlanta concentrated on flood relief, gutting and cleaning homes. They also built community trails, and worked in conjunction with the organization Community Collaborations International.

The Memphis volunteers participated in outdoor cleanup and worked at parks, in addition to having a rotation at a youth program. They worked in conjunction with the Memphis Leadership Foundation, a centralized volunteer resource in Memphis.

Students in Mullins helped plant trees and did environmental work in Appalachia in an old coal mining area. They volunteered through the Rural Appalachian Improvement League.

Students began last summer selecting locations and organizations to work with, and also to find housing to accommodate the large groups.

“Illinois State’s alternative spring break program is unique, in that there are a large number of participants in each location,” said Harriett Steinbach, community service specialist in the Leadership and Service Unit in the Dean of Students Office. “Other universities that have alternative spring break programs send a much smaller number of students.”

Many of this year’s participants shared their experiences through a special online blog. Their blogs can be found at