In the wake of COVID-19, Keene State College made the decision to cancel all of this spring’s alternative break trips. However, Alternative Break remains a popular and important part of Keene State’s campus engagement and the college hopes it will occur again in future semesters.
Alternative Break is a college-sponsored trip that a student can take that offers a volunteer opportunity surrounding a variety of issues and can be anywhere from a bus ride to Vermont to a plane ride across the Atlantic.
KSC senior Anna DePasquale has been involved with Alternative Break since her first year at the college and is now the team engagement chair, which means she focuses on training team leaders in reflection, engagement and reorientation.
“Reflection is a really key part. We don’t just go on the trip and come back,” DePasquale said. “On the trips, we do an hour-long reflection and reflect on the day’s activity and how it relates to each issue. Then there’s reorientation; once we come back, we’re still talking about the issues. We try to get all the teams together to talk about the trips.”
Part of that discussion of the trips after the fact is thinking about what can be done here in the Keene community that relates back to the cause that the students worked on while away. During DePasquale’s sophomore year, she traveled to Black Mountain, North Carolina for a sustainability trip.
“When we came back to school afterward we tried to help the initiative by putting the compost bins in the dining commons and the student center,” DePasquale said. “Every team tries to do something. Like we have an animal rights trip and they’ll try to go to the Monadnock Humane Society and do something over there.”
According to DePasquale, the aim of Alternative Break is always to educate students on what they can do personally to contribute to an issue a community, or even the world, is facing.
“I would say the goal of the programming in general with these trips is to immerse students in a community where they can do direct service in order to learn more about various social issues,” DePasquale said.
For this spring break, there were supposed to be four different trips with four different volunteer opportunities. One of those trips was going to be in Ireland and was focused on lowering carbon emissions. According to Coordinator of Community Service Jessica Gagne-Cloutier, all alternative break trips for this spring were canceled before spring break began on Saturday, March 14.
“Our four alternative break trips for this week were all canceled. We have not made any decisions on our trip scheduled for May, so there is very little that I can share about that trip at this time,” said Gagne-Cloutier.
Anyone interested in Alternative Break for next year can check out Alternative Break · Student Involvement on Keene State’s website. Applications to be a team leader next year are also open. However, a student is required to attend an Alternative Break before becoming a leader.
Alternative Break Leader and Logistics Chair Madison Olsen and Special Events Chair Ashley Rollend did not respond to requests for comment.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at