Habitat for Humanity

5 Ways to Make a Difference During Your 2016 Spring Break

Habitat for Humanity

By Jessica Colarossi

Alternative spring break is a longstanding tradition involving college students working toward positive change. Here are five programs in the United States you can join this year.

Volunteer for a political campaign

Spring break is an ideal time to support your favorite candidate and doubles as a great way to meet other politically active, like-minded citizens. You can find out how to volunteer by going to a candidate’s website; this list details the presidential primaries and caucuses taking place this year.

President Obama said it clearly during his most recent State of the Union Address: “Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it.”

Help build a home for people in need

Hands-on, construction-based volunteering is a straightforward yet impactful way to spend your spring break. More than 48 million people are living in poverty in the United States alone. Habitat for Humanity has been addressing the issues of poverty and affordable housing since 1976 by building, renovating and repairing houses for people in need. Habitat for Humanity gives volunteers the ability to choose where they would like to be stationed during spring break as individuals or groups.

If you want to get your hands dirty another way, the St. Bernard Project rebuilds homes that were destroyed by natural disasters. They are accepting volunteers in Louisiana, New York and New Jersey year-round.

Be a trailblazer

Student groups can volunteer with the American Hiking Society for weeklong journeys through America’s parks and forests. The program includes trail stewardship and maintenance projects, but also serves as an outdoor vacation. There are many locations and dates still available.

The National Park Service is also hosting a “Trails Forever Program” in the Great Smoky Mountains with a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups.

Improve communities with United Way

With an emphasis on improving health, education and income, United Way empowers communities across the globe. This year, the organization is prepared to take college students to work in El Paso, Texas, and Williamson County, Tennessee, for alternative spring break. Students will help implement sustainable practices, build houses for families and ensure access to healthy food, all while immersing themselves in the culture of these communities.

Alternatively, there are partner projects in many cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C., New York and San Francisco.

Become a leader of social change

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) alternative spring break program develops youth leaders by exposing students to concepts of social justice and community engagement. Participants will learn how to impact communities through civic engagement in Orlando, Florida, and practice community organizing, nonviolent direct action, using social media for social justice, and more.


Jessica Colarossi is working on her B.A. in journalism and minoring in publishing at Emerson College. She previously interned at ThinkProgress and has also written for other campus publications covering music, health, sustainability and local news. Jessica is originally from Lindenhurst, New York. Follow her @heyitsjessc.

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Photo of Habitat for Humanity via Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.

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