Alternative Breaks

The Center for Civic Engagement & Learning (CCEL) hosts and supports Alternative Break community service and community issue immersion programs that enable undergraduate and graduate students to utilize their school breaks to explore regional, national, and global communities in more depth. Alternative Breaks are a great way to make a difference, learn about a new issue and community, and meet new people!

During the 2017-2018 school year, CCEL will offer three domestic March & May Alternative Breaks as well as two weekend Cleveland neighborhood immersions during the Fall Break and MLK Day Weekend. Please see the below details for information on each of these break programs.

CCEL is also happy to promote additional break programs coordinated by student service organizations and Case Western Reserve University affiliated departments.

For questions about CCEL's Alternative Breaks, contact Adrian Griffin.

WEEKEND alternative breaks: Cleveland neighborhood immersions

Connect with Cleveland through a new neighborhood immersion series meant to introduce students to some of the communities near campus. Meet neighbors and community organizations to learn about the rich history, strengths, and current happenings in the neighborhoods while also enjoying some of the culinary and entertainment attractions in each community.

Fall Break (October 21-23, 2017): Hough, Fairfax, & MidTown Neighborhoods

Cleveland's Hough, Fairfax, and MidTown neighborhoods have a unique history of neighborhood evolution and are at the forefront of conversations in the city around balancing industry development with the needs of local communities. Learn perspectives on this history by visiting with 100+ year old nonprofits like the Western Reserve Historical Society, Eliza Bryant Village retirement community, and Karamu House performing arts center. You'll also immerse in neighborhood assets by experiencing The Diary of Anne Frank at the historic Cleveland Play House, touring Cleveland's original stagecoach stop and historic Urban League baseball stadium, and enjoying an African dance and drumming lesson at Africa House Enterprises after volunteering at their innovative urban farm. Additionally, participants will sample delicious cuisine from neighborhood restaurants like Hot Sauce Williams, Gallucci's Italian market, Fluffy Duck Bakery, and more. Participants will meet at 9:30 a.m. in CCEL on Saturday, October 21 and the immersion will end on campus by 5 p.m. on Monday, October 23. Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the break is filled. A tentative draft of the break agenda is available online.

MLK Day Weekend (January 13-15, 2018): St. Clair Superior & AsiaTown

Cleveland's St. Clair Superior & AsiaTown neighborhoods have a rich history of immigration throughout the years and are rapidly becoming known for a unique merging of culture, art, entrepreneurship, and makerspaces. Participants will explore Cleveland's AsiaTown neighborhood with community leaders from the Greater Cleveland chapter of Asian Pacific American Advocates, starting with brunch at Emperor's Palace in Cleveland's original Chinatown, followed by an AsiaTown grocery store tour, dinner at Miega Korean Barbeque, and karaoke at the upscale Galaxy KTV. You'll also visit local art studios like Zygote Press and Negative Space Gallery while enjoying lunch at the eclectic Artefine Art Gallery Café and create your own art project from the Upcycle Parts Shop. Learn about St. Clair Superior's rich history of Slovenian immigration while also exploring its modern makerspaces and entrepreneurial endeavors happening Tyler Village (known for the Cleveland Flea) and the Hamilton Collaborative (known for IngenuityFest). Participants will meet at 9:30 a.m. in CCEL on Saturday, January 13 and the immersion will end on campus by 5 p.m. on Monday, January 15. Apply online by Sunday, December 1; however, spots will be filled on a first come, first serve basis. A tentative draft of the break agenda is available online.

Weekend Break logistics, applications, and discounts

Students are welcome to participate in just one or both weekend immersions. Immersions are open to both undergraduate and graduate students. A CCEL staff member will accompany students on each immersion.

The participant cost per immersion is $95, which includes transportation, seven meals as well as snacks, and entertainment. This fee has been significantly discounted by CCEL in order to give students the opportunity to participate. Participants will stay in their typical on or off-campus lodging during the break. After completing the online application, turning in your payment of $95 to the CCEL office (Tinkham Veale University Center, Suite 165) will officially secure your spot in the break. Payments can be made by cash or check (made out to: Case Western Reserve University). Note: all payments are non-refundable.

A limited number of $30 per person discounts are available for students willing to assist as a driver for one of CCEL's minivans during the weekend break experience. This website explains the driver role in more detail, and CCEL will follow up with students on a rolling basis who indicate on their participant application their eligibility/willingness to drive.

alternative spring breaks (march 12-march16, 2018)


Beyond Orange is the New Black: Mass Incarceration in the U.S.

The United States is the world's leading incarcerator. Through participating in education, direct service, and advocacy, students will have the opportunity to delve into the complexities of the U.S. justice system and explore alternative views of justice.

Participants will volunteer in Ypsilanti, Michigan with American Friends Service Committee, which advocates on behalf of incarcerated individuals and their loved ones who contact the nonprofit with a variety of concerns related to conditions of confinement, health care access, parole preparation, solitary confinement, and more. Students will also serve on the University of Michigan's campus in Ann Arbor with the Prison Creative Arts Project, assisting with their annual artshow of works by incarcerated artists. Through lodging at the hip, colorful Hostel Detroit, participants will also have the opportunity to explore the rich cultural attractions Detroit has to offer. Visit the following page for complete details.

Navigating Access, Integration, and Citizenship as New Americans

For thousands of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants settling in Ohio each year, the challenges of successful integration and pressures of assimilation create barriers to establishing healthy and thriving lives. Uprooted from their cultures and communities - either by choice or force - new Americans must navigate complicated processes as they add to the economic development and cultural richness of the area. Break participants will work with organizations in Columbus, Ohio that assist Garden in Columbusnew American populations in building skills to address barriers related to language, education, fair and affordable housing, and employment. Service opportunities include teaching English language skills through informal conversations with adults, conducting mock interviews to enhance job readiness, preparing enrichment activities for youth after school, and more. Participants will also learn about intentional steps the City of Columbus has taken to become a "welcoming community" by working to remove obstacles that often keep immigrant newcomers – and those who have lived in the city for years – from being successful.

The group will stay at the Wayfaring Buckeye Hostel in Columbus and will have the opportunity to explore the city's unique cultural assets and attractions, including sampling cuisine from immigrant-owned restaurants in the area and visiting the Ohio Statehouse.

Alternative Spring Breaks Logistics and Applications:

Alternative Spring Breaks depart the morning of Monday, March 12 and return the evening of Friday, March 16. The participant cost per break is $385, which includes transportation, lodging, entertainment, and all but three meals. The group will travel by minivans to and from the service cities (approximately 2.5-3 hours from campus). Students should be comfortable staying in simplistic accommodations. Lodgings on the trip may be mix-gender; participants should be comfortable sharing a room of bunk beds with other CWRU students. The hostels have private, gender-neutral bathrooms. Participants should also be comfortable preparing their own breakfasts and lunches – offerings include bagels, oatmeal, fruit, sandwiches, vegetable sticks, and snacks. There will be a stop at a grocery store while on break for students who wish to purchase their own meals out of pocket. The group will also be eating dinner out most evenings.

To officially become registered for the break, students need to complete the following steps by Friday, December 1; however, spots will be filled on a rolling basis:

  1. Complete the online application—coming soon!
  2. Turn in an initial deposit of $200 payable by cash or check (made out to: Case Western Reserve University) to the CCEL office – Tinkham Veale University Center, Suite 165. The remaining trip balance of $185 will be due by Friday, January 19. Note: all payments are non-refundable.

apply to be a 2018 alternative MARCH & MAY break site leader

Help strengthen CCEL's Alternative Break program by applying to be a Site Leader for one of our March or May breaks. Site Leaders will work in pairs alongside a CWRU staff learning partner to enhance the education, service, reflection, and group bonding experience for the break. Selected Site Leaders will earn a $200 stipend that will be automatically applied to the cost of the break. Review the Site Leader responsibilities. The online application will be available soon.

alternative MARCH & MAY break scholarships available

A limited number of partial scholarships are available for the March & May breaks for students with demonstrated financial need. More information on scholarships will be coming soon.

ALTERNATIVE MAY BREAK (potential dates May 13-May 18)
More details coming soon!

Accessibility: CCEL is committed to providing all students with opportunities to take full advantage of our programs. Our staff recognizes that students with documented disabilities may require reasonable accommodations in order to achieve this objective. If you are interested in taking part in a specific project but have questions related to accommodations and/or the accessibility of a site, please contact the office of Disability Resources in Educational Services for Students (216.368.5230 or, and they will work with a representative from our office to answer your questions.