Winter Service Trips

Magnolia Project Summer Internship

Alternative Breaks is offering winter service trips to New Orleans, Louisiana, the Greater Bay Area, and Los Angeles, California for January 2016. Led by students, the program consists of a DECal during the fall semester and a 10- to 14-day service trip in early January.

2015-2016 marks the tenth year of the commitment the UC Berkeley Public Service Center holds in working in solidarity with Gulf Coast Communities; 2014 was the inaugural year for a winter trip to Los Angeles centered upon the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA 2010); and 2015 marked the inaugural year for the winter Food & Justice Storytelling winter trip.  All trips are also offered over spring break. 

Alternative Breaks Winter Trips seeks dedicated student volunteers who have the courage to step outside of their comfort zones and challenge their own assumptions about social inequities. Alternative Breaks holds long-term relationships with many of the community organizations that will be visited. The winter trip opportunities offer the chance to deeply engage with the community and strengthen existing partnerships. This is an opportunity for both experienced student volunteers and those beginning to do justice work.

Reach us at, contact Rajelin Escondo, or call (510) 643-0303 with any questions or comments.  

To receive email reminders about future info sessions and application deadlines please email us.

Program Information
Program Dates: January 2-14, 2017 
Time Commitment: 2 weeks in Winter 2017 PLUS Fall DECal
Eligibility: Current Cal Students and Alumni
Cost: $375 (Subject to Change)
Application Deadline: September 16, 2016 at 11:59pm

Trip Details

Anyone is welcome to sign up for the trip. As part of our objective to be inclusive to those of all backgrounds, we will be subsidizing trip costs and supporting fundraising efforts. The final per person cost for the trip includes transportation, lodging, and food. Please talk to us if you need any financial assistance.

The purpose of these trips is to participate alongside community members in rebuilding and shaping their communities.


All participants will be expected to attend the mandatory DeCal class for their trip during the fall semester. DeCals are 6-8pm on Wednesdays, starting in September. The purpose of the DeCal is to give participants a greater understanding of the geography, history, and socioeconomic issues of the trip to make it an even better experience. The DeCal is also an opportunity for participants and break leaders to get to know each other and prepare for two weeks of service! 

Magnolia ProjectMagnolia Project

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Magnolia Project was created in 2006 in collaboration with the UC Berkeley Public Service Center. We partner with community based organizations to explore social issues through meaningful service, education, and reflection during academic breaks. The majority of the trip takes place in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a few days spent in Jackson, Mississippi. The program includes a weekly two-unit DeCal on Wednesday nights from 6-8pm during the fall semester, where students will study the history of New Orleans and modern social justice issues the city is grappling with and a two-week service trip from January 2 to January 16.

New Orleans has a unique rich history which has contributed significantly to the civil rights movement and many other important social movements. Magnolia Project serves to preserve the unique cultural legacy of New Orleans from social hazards that were further magnified through Hurricane Katrina. While on the trip, participants will have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of community partners in various New Orleans neighborhoods. These grassroots organizations support their communities in multiple ways, focusing on issues ranging from criminal justice, to education, to environmental concerns.

Magnolia Project also gives students the opportunity to think critically about important intersecting themes, all while exploring their social justice drives and developing their understanding of the potential power of community organizing. Many students find that what they learn through the program leads them to become more involved in social justice work and influences choices they make in other aspects of their lives.

We are looking for students of diverse backgrounds, interests, and levels of knowledge about New Orleans; people of non-social justice majors are encouraged as well, ranging anywhere from Engineering, CNR, and Business, to literature, art, and film!

Food Justice and the Business behind Inequity

“More than one-third of US adults are obese.”
“Hunger in America exists for over 50 million people”
“1 in 7 US Households are food-insecure”

Facts like these are shared on a daily basis, but what do they really mean and how does this relate to the ever-changing food industry in the United States?  In a nation known for an abundant food supply, how are there people struggling to find their next meal?  In a nation struggling with food insecurity and hunger, how is obesity continuing to grow? 

Join us on a journey in the Greater Bay Area to unwrap the food system and understand the impact of the food movement in the U.S. as we dig for answers.  Through readings, guest lectures, and reflection, we will explore the history of agriculture and how politics turned simple farming into an industry, the paradox of the prominence of nutrition-related diseases in food-insecure homes, and how all of this impacts humanity.  During our weeklong service-learning trip, we will dive into the hearts of communities known as food deserts, which lack access to affordable, nutritious foods as a result of various social issues, including socioeconomic level.  We will explore how food deserts are created and how this relates to health disparities amongst differing social groups.  To further feed our minds, we will focus on the various people in the food system from CEO’s of major corporations to farm works to consumers.
We know you’re hungry for answers so join us as we unwrap the food system and take a bite out of justice!

The Magnolia Project  and all winter trips are generously supported by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, LEAD Center, ASUC, and alumni, staff and faculty donors.


Trip Participants  |   Break Leaders   

Community Partners  |  Other Ways to Get Involved


Trip Participants

Student-led trips offered by Alternative Breaks (including Magnolia Project) teach participants the complexities of social issues by allowing students to live, serve, and engage in communities directly impacted by injustices addressed in pre-trip DeCal courses led by student facilitators.
We aim to introduce students to specific social justice issues in different communities, empower students to engage in impactful direct service, and create strong, lasting relationships between peers in a challenging and fun team environment.
Each break focuses on a specific topic such as immigration, environmental justice, public health, or poverty. Participants return to Berkeley with clearer perspectives of themselves, their roles as agents of social change, and the ways they can make the most positive impact on their own communities.
Program commitments for participants:
  • Attend a 2-unit fall DECal course (Wednesdays 6-8 pm, in fall for winter trips, spring for spring trips)
  • Participate in a service-learning trip during the academic winter break (January 2-16 2016) or spring break (March 19-25, 2016)
  • Fundraise $150 through various fundraising activities to keep costs low for everyone and get the word out about key issues facing our communities
  • Pay a $375 fee for winter trips and $200 for spring trips. (These fees cover housing, transportation, and food for the entire trip. An initial non-refundable deposit of $50 will be due at the first All Community Meeting. All trip fees are non-refundable). 
  • Three $50 Participant Stipends per trip are available for those who have demonstrated need.


Break Leaders

Interested in Leading an Alternative Break on of our 10 trip locations?

Applications to become an Alternative Breaks Leader in the 2016-2017 open in March 2016.

As an Alternative Breaks Leader, you will have the opportunity to develop:

  • leadership skills
  • project planning skills
  • teaching and group facilitation skills
  • marketing and publicity strategies
  • program budgeting and fundraising skills

As a Break Leader, you will connect and partner with organizations that engage in a particular social justice issue. You will also be able to influence and inspire other students towards meaningful service through your work.


For Community Partners

Alternative Breaks seeks to partner with organizations that promote social justice within their communities by sending service groups for one-week or two-week projects during Cal students' academic Spring (March 19-25, 2016) and Winter breaks (January 2-16, 2016).

We emphasize sustainability by making a commitment to return year after year to our host communities, including:

  • Greater Bay Area, CA  
    Food For Thought: Food Justice and Sustainability
  • Bay Area, CA
    Environmental Justice: Examining Health, Building Community, Demanding Equity
  • Bay Area and Sacramento, CA
    Give Me Shelter: An Exploration of Homelessness and Poverty
  • Central Valley, CA   
    Holistic Harvest: Rural Communities in the Central Valley
  • Campo Kumeyaay, CA
    Voices of the Unheard: The Struggle for Equality and Rights in Indian Country
  • Los Angeles, CA (Urban Pathways Project)  
    Premium Health, High Premium: The Issues with U.S. Health Care
  • San Diego, CA & Tijuana, Mexico
    San Diego/Tijuana: Too Many Walls, Not Enough Bridges
  • New Orleans, LA (Magnolia Project)   
    NOLA: Hidden, Revealed, Forgotten
  • Phoenix and Tucson, AZ
    We Are All Arizona: Confronting the Attacks on Difference
  • Southern and Central Oregon
    Where the Wild Things Are: Rethinking Social Justice to Include Our Furry Friends

If you are a community-based organization providing services to or advocating for justice for the people in these communities, please contact Community Partnerships Director at



Other Ways to Get Involved

Alternative Breaks is committed to offering its program to all students, regardless of their financial situations. All of our trips are subsidized by fundraisers and grants, with trip fees at only $200 and fundraising at $150 for an entire week of transportation, lodging, and food. If you would like to help Alternative Breaks provide more opportunities to its students, you can donate to us at the Give to Cal website. All gifts are tax-deductible. 

If you are a Cal alumnus living in one of the communities we serve and are interested in hosting dinner or speaking with one of our trips during spring break, please contact Community Partnerships Student Director  at



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The program is open to all - including Dreamers, AB 540, undocumented students, and alumni. Trips with flights require a government ID. Partial fee waivers are available to all who demonstrate financial need regardless of citizen status

Questions?  Contact us!

Participant Commitments and Responsibilities:  

While on the service trip, all participants are expected to adhere to trip guidelines, participant agreements, and Break Leader decisions. Post-trip, volunteers are required to create content for the newsletter as well as get involved in a service/art project at UC Berkeley. Students are also invited to participate in an optional 6-8 hours of service locally after the trip. 

Time Commitments:

  • Fall 2016 DECal

    • Food Justice DeCal: Thursday, 6-8pm (starts on Thursday, September 22)

    • Magnolia Project DeCal: Wednesday, 6-8pm (starts on Wednesday, September 21)

  • All trips take place January 2-14, 2017

  • Trip dates (including length of trip) subject to change

Financial Commitments:

  • Pay a participant fee. These fees range from $200 - $375 and cover housing, transportation, and food for the entire trip. An initial non-refundable deposit of $100 will be due at the second DECal, September 30th. All trip fees are non-refundable. 

    • Magnolia Project:  $375 + purchase of own airfare
    • Food Justice Project: $200
  • Magnolia Project Participants will be responsible for purchasing their own plane tickets.

  • Meet an additional minimum fundraising commitment of $150.

  • Three $50 need-based Participant Stipends will be available on a case-by-case basis for each trip. Stipends are available for all students regardless of documentation status including Dreamers, AB540, and those without documentation. Apply here. Applications are due September 27th at 5pm.

  • Participants are required to participate in all fundraising activities to make trips possible.  

Personal Commitments:

  • Agree and adhere to trip guidelines and participant agreements.

  • Uphold No Alcohol and No Drug policy for all activities related to Alternative Breaks.

  • Fill out and turn in all trip safety and liability forms. 

Selection Timeline:

  • Application Deadline:  Sunday, September 16, 2016 by 11:59pm

  • Decisions:  By September 20, 2016

  • First DECal:  Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 6-8pm (then weekly)

Questions? Need more information?

E-mail us at

Attend an information session [ADA accessible]

Please do NOT click "submit" until the entire application is complete!

Incomplete applications will NOT be read!


I. Personal Information

First & Middle Name:

Please use your full legal name.

Last Name: 


Email: Phone:
SID: Expected Graduation Year:
Are you a transfer student? Are you a first-generation college student, meaning your parents, guardians, or grandparents did not attend college?
What is your major?
What is your residential status?
What languages do you speak other than English? Please indicate whether you live in the Residence Hall, a co-op or are a member of a Fraternity or Sorority.
Gender Identity:

If you selected "I do not identify with the above options", or would like to provide details about your gender identity, please do so:

Racial or ethnic identity:


If you selected "I do not identify with the above options", or would like to provide details about your race/ethnicity, please do so:

How did you hear about this program?
Would you like to subscribe to the Public Service Center's monthly newsletter that lists community events, service and leadership opportunities, scholarships, and more?

The Public Service Center is committed to raising funds for those who need it. Please share your financial aid status with us to help us make this happen. (Please check all that apply.)

Not Eligible for Financial Aid:
Financial Aid Eligible:<-- 65% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid
Work-Study Eligible:
Pell Grant Eligible:

The Public Service Center is committed to making our programs accessible to all students. If accommodations, including mobility accommodations, would make this program accessible to you, please call Rajelin Escondo at (510-643-0303) anytime before Wednesday, September 9th.

Please check if you will be 21 years old by January 2, 2017.
Please check if you will be 21 by then and are willing and able to serve as a driver for the group.


T-Shirt Size 

Dietary Needs/Preferences:

 Did you attend an information session?

Have you participated in Alternative Breaks before?

Which issues are you most interested in learning more about through the DECal and trip?


II. Trip Preferences

Please rank the winter break trips in your order of preference, Trip Preference 1 being your first choice and Trip Preference 2 being your last choice. 

Then rate your level of interest for each trip, with 5 being very strong interest and 1 being very weak interest.

Trip Preference 1: 

Interest Level:

Trip Preference 2: 

Interest Level:


III. Personal Statement

Do NOT copy and paste your answers! Due to system programming, your application will not be processed correctly if you copy and paste from an external source


Question #1: What does "social justice" mean to you?  (250 words max)

Question #2: Explain your interest in Alternative Breaks, specifically regarding the trip(s) you are most interested in. Include what you hope to learn and gain from your participation in the Alternative Breaks program, and how you will use these lessons and skills towards advocating for social justice in your future. (250 words max)

Question #3: Please list any personal qualities or experiences (academic, service-related, work-related, etc.) you have that are relevant to your first and second trip preferences or the program as a whole. Please note that previous experience is not a requirement; participants with little experience and lots of passion are equally desired as those with lots of experience. If you are an alumni, let us know. (250 words max)


I have read all participant responsibilities and agree to these conditions if selected for the Winter service trip.

I have completed all required fields and answered all questions in the personal statement.


Before you submit your application, make sure all required fields have been completed. We will NOT review applications that are incomplete.



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