Tornado cleanup in Alabama is one of many trips by more than 260 students on Alternative Breaks this week

The club was founded 11 years ago with its first three trips and has grown ever since | March 8, 2012

More than 260 students and 25 faculty and staff members are giving up fun in the sun during their spring break for a more meaningful experience doing service projects in distant U.S. cities and foreign locations. The groups left Friday, March 2, on 25 trips to such locations as Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Guatemala and El Salvador.

One group traveled to Decatur, Ala., to help with cleanup after the tornados that struck on Friday, March 2. They were featured in covereage about the storm's aftermath by The Decatur Daily.

"Xavier's Alternative Breaks program provides an opportunity for students to participate in direct service in a new area of the world, allowing them to learn first-hand about a social justice issue," says Julie Tritschler, chair of Xavier's Alternative Breaks Board.

The club is managed by a faculty advisor and a board of 13 students. The club allows students to put their Jesuit identity into action by doing such projects as Habitat for Humanity in Kentucky, turtle nesting site cleanup in Florida and working with children at orphanages in Russia. The club began planning trips 11 years ago, beginning with three service trips in the United States. Most trips occur during spring break, which this year is March 5-9, but three occur over summer break.

"The experiences provide leadership development and challenge those involved to be open-minded and learn about social justice from a different perspective," Tritschler says. "Many students feel their lives have been changed after participating in Alternative Breaks. We encourage students to continue learning about their issue after returning home and reinforce the value of being an active citizen in the community."

Learn more about the Alternative Breaks Club at the club's website.