Alternative Spring Break: Empowering the Boston University Community Through Intentional Service

On Saturday, March 9, 2019, more than 200 Boston University students departed Boston for weeklong community service trips across the United States. Featuring 21 destinations, the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program allows students to choose from a variety of service focal points such as: education, public health, environment, etc.

Each trip consists of two coordinators, one graduate student or staff member, and five to thirteen undergraduate students. As coordinators, Eli Panetta ‘22 and Brian Kendrick ‘21 enjoyed unique experiences leading and organizing their respective service trips.

Working with Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, Panetta and his group of volunteers prepared hygiene kits for commercial sex workers and the homeless youth. On the first day, volunteers from Alternatives for Girls drove the group around Detroit while explaining their experiences in the city and its rich history.

Eventually, the group spent time driving through the areas of Detroit where the hygiene kits are distributed, allowing the group to see first-hand the impact their work had on the community. Panetta stated, “We were able to place the work we were doing in the morning into actual spaces and into context.” Thus, creating a memorable experience for the group.  


Eli Panetta at the Lincoln Art Street Park during his service trip to Detroit.


During his service trip to Greenville, Kendrick’s favorite memory was during the group discussion on the last night. A volunteer facilitated a discussion on human rights while the group openly discussed their beliefs and experiences for two hours.

“As a coordinator, witnessing the group come together from where we had started, having met just two weeks before, was an amazing site,” Kendrick emphasized. “To have such a nuanced and eye-opening conversation with amazingly empathetic and intelligent people was 100 percent the highlight of my trip and also one of my favorite moments in ASB in general.”

Panetta and Kendrick’s passion for service began while attending high school. Panetta volunteered at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and attended its Youth Summit on Hunger and Poverty. Kendrick volunteered for a multitude of services, including a weeklong trip in Ecuador to improve indigenous craftsmanship.  

For both students, a background in service was a major component of getting involved in college. “The single biggest reason I applied was the potential of forming new, genuine relationships with other people, all of whom sharing a passion for service,” Kendrick said. “This potential of finding a new, vibrant diverse community was really what drove me to get involved with the Alternative Service Break program.”

Coordinating a service trip comes with great responsibility and challenges. Kendrick struggled with staying organized throughout the planning period. Kendrick explained, “You’re calling and emailing your community and housing partners, contacting potential donors for different meals or entertainment, and also relaying different logistics to your chaperone and volunteers.”

Although coordinating a service trip is stressful, the students grew professionally, personally, and interpersonally. “I’ve learned to seek and realize common ground between myself and a person who may superficially seem very different than me.” Kendrick stated. “I’ve met so many new people that are unique and beautiful in their own special way, and that challenge me to grow as a person, a lot of whom I would have never met if I hadn’t participated as a coordinator this semester.”

Both the coordinators agree that students and staff looking for an affordable and uplifting spring break should consider the ASB program. “I want the students to know that they wouldn’t be wasting spring break on an ASB trip,” Panetta concluded. “The coordinators work really hard to make the trip fun because it’s their break as well! I would like the faculty to know that even though it is spring break, the role of chaperone that they can have is super impactful for the students.”

For more information about the Alternative Spring Break program, visit the ASB website at




Andrew Dudley, Staff Writer

Andrew Dudley is a junior in the College of Communication at Boston University studying advertising with a focus in political science. You can find him on campus perusing his twitter feed or enjoying his 30-minute walk to class. Andrew’s two favorite things in life are traveling and eating Chipotle, whenever he has enough money in his bank account.

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