The Volunteer UCF Alternative Break Program offers students the opportunity to serve others, grow as individuals, and impact lives. UCF ABP sends teams around the country, and internationally, to engage in community service and learn about a large variety of social issues.

Each trip for Alternative Spring Break included eight participants, one student site leader and a faculty advisor. Students had to apply for the programs online and attend group and individual interviews.

This year, there were 12 spring break trips.

  • The Center for the Great Apes (Wauchula): Students volunteered in a sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees.
  • Different Abilities–Parkwood Farms (Snellville, GA): Students helped people with mental, physical, emotional and learning disabilities through a therapeutic horseback riding program.
  • Environmental Conservation–Reef Relief (Key West): Students worked with various sites and projects to protect the natural marine resources of the Florida Keys and educated others about the coral reef habitat.
  • Human Rights/Criminal Justice–Shelby County Jail (Memphis, TN): Students were paired with counselors from the Shelby County Jail, attended disciplinary hearings and sat in on discussions about the inmates’ hardships.
  • Hunger & Homelessness–Decatur Cooperative Ministry (Decatur, GA): Students interacted with and assisted families and children who are homeless.
  • Education & Literacy–Teach for America: Students worked with Teach for America teachers to create a fun and exciting classroom curriculum for the week.
  • Environment/Recreational–Cumberland Trails (Hamilton County, TN): Students constructed hiking trails for visitors to walk through.
  • Disaster Relief–His Hands 2 Go (New Orleans, LA.): Students helped reconstruct houses and create a community garden to help New Orleans recover from the devastation of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav.
  • Animals/Environment–UM Dunlap Research (Miami): Students gained hands-on experience through the University of Miami’s marine life conservation program.
  • Farming/Education (San Miguel de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica): Students worked on an organic coffee farm and assisted in primary schools.
  • The Burnett Honors College–Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (Vero Beach): Students worked on environmental projects and participate in activities in bird surveying, sea turtle season, the butterfly garden and beach mice projects.
  • LEAD Scholars–Urban Farming/Animals (New Orleans, LA): Students worked with the Latinos Farmers Cooperative to assist with urban farming and gardening.
  • Shelby Olson, health director for Volunteer UCF, travelled to Costa Rica and shared her experience. “In Costa Rica, I was fortunate to not only volunteer in the small town San Miguel de Sarapiqui, but also become immersed in the culture,” said Olson. “I bonded with my host family and made lifelong friends. I learned how to plant coffee and fish for tilapia, with my volunteer group. As a group, we were able to bring donated dresses to girls in primary school, help restore nature trails with translated signs, and reconstruct bridge trails. From this experience, I learned that I am capable of doing more to improve myself and the world around me than I realize. I also learned that our life experiences truly shape us more than we could ever imagine. I am truly an advocate for learning about ourselves through service and giving more than we receive. Service is a civic responsibility, and we have so much power to do good. As students, we are very fortunate to be provided an education that we can use to change the world.”

    Several students are repeat volunteers, including Sammantha Pendergast, Alternative Break Program director. “I fell in love with the ideas and potential the program had to offer,” said Pendergast, a senior who will traveled her third trip. “Students gain a deeper understanding of the various social issues that surround us on a daily basis. They become empowered to raise awareness and provide higher quality care to the community.”

    Volunteer UCF expanded their Alternative Break Program to Fall, Winter and Spring breaks in order to make a greater impact. For more information, visit

    Volunteer UCF is an agency of Office of Student Involvement in the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services.