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Accessibility on Alternative Breaks

As beautifully expressed by Dr. Crystal Jones, "There's a huge difference between 'all are welcome' and 'this was created with you in mind.'" While the Alternative Breaks movement is not one that was historically made with folx of marginalized identities in mind, students and staff in the Bennion Center's Alternative Breaks program continually work to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of the program. In doing so, we have compiled this resource in order to disclose the current state of our program, share the work we're doing to address our shortcomings, and invite students, staff, and faculty who are willing to invest the emotional labor to join us in that work.

Additionally, each Alternative Breaks experience listed on our Fall Break, Spring Break, and Weekend Break pages contains a brief accessibility statement with information participants deserve to be aware of before applying to join our team. These statements are not final determinations of a student's ability to participate on any experience. We will work with all students to ensure that they are able to join and feel safe participating on any Alternative Breaks experience.

Please note: working with our partners across campus, we've attempted to consider accessibility on Alternative Breaks holistically, but we recognize that there may be—indeed, there likely are—things we missed. If you’d like to discuss additional options or information regarding any component of the Alt Breaks experience, please contact Ann Lopez, Alternative Breaks Program Manager. You won’t be expected to disclose or discuss the nature of your disability, experience, or inquiry in order to receive accommodations and information; we believe equitable access and accommodations are a right for all.

Accommodations and Inclusion Practices

Each of the areas below has been identified to allow students, staff, and faculty to assess what an Alternative Breaks experience might look like for them individually. Here we disclose what Alternative Breaks can look like and have looked like for participants of various, multiple, and intersectional identities—along with practices that we've adopted to make sure all feel welcomed in our programming. This is by no means a comprehensive list of what we are able to accomplish with those who want to be a part of our program. We are glad to have the opportunity to work with students individually to ensure we're providing a safe, comfortable, and meaningful experience with our program.

The Bennion Center is committed to ADA accessibility standards in its programming and will work with the University's Center for Disability & Access to best serve students' needs on an individual basis.

Blind Students & Students With Low Vision

We know that a person who is blind has usually adapted their practices and lifestyle in individual ways to compensate for the lack of vision. Additionally, the experiences and necessary accommodations for students with visual impairments can range widely. With that said, we are committed to working with students to ensure that these individual needs are taken into consideration when providing accommodations so that they may enjoy an equitable Alternative Breaks experience with their peers. Below we offer what can be vision-related accommodations for students on Alternative Breaks, recognizing that they are meant as examples of accommodations rather than an exhaustive list of what we can work with students and the Center for Disability & Access to arrange:

  • Auditory or large-text educational materials and reflection activities
    • This can include videos, podcasts, music/spoken poems, listening to a group read aloud, or (as appropriate) articles printed in large font.
    • If note-taking or drawing is required at any time, other participants will be able to help in this process as the student feels comfortable. Otherwise, the student is able to opt out of these components of the experience should they be unavoidable.
  • Assistance from the group when navigating the city, lodging, community partner organizations, etc.
  • Adjusted volunteer projects
    • While this will vary with each community organization and is often beyond the control of the Bennion Center, we are able to work with our partners to see if they can arrange volunteer projects for the group or a portion of it that are accessible for a volunteer who is blind or has low vision.
  • Service animal accommodations (please reference the "Service Animals & Emotional Support Animals" section below for more information)
  • Students utilizing their own assistive technologies are welcome, as possible and desired, to use these technologies on their break.

Additional Campus Resources

Center for Disability & Access (CDA)
Phone: 801-581-5020
Union Rm. 162

International Students

Info that Daniel was talking about related to approved programs.
Info about student visas.

Information for international students participating on Alternative Breaks experiences will be published soon.

Undocumented Students

For undocumented students (with and without DACA), travel can present potential risks and can often feel unsafe. Below are some of the ways in which we work to ensure the safety and confidence of undocumented students who want to participate in Alternative Breaks. We encourage all students, regardless of immigration status, to consider the risks involved in traveling out of the state and to talk with given/chosen family and trusted advisors about how to best prepare themselves for their travel.

Please also review the information toward the bottom of this section pertaining to two of our Alternative Breaks that present greater risks to undocumented students and how we can navigate those risks.


Beyond being more expensive than driving, we understand that flying can present significant risks for folx traveling without papers. For both reasons, we drive to each of our host communities on our Alternative Breaks. By recruiting students to volunteer as drivers, we simultaneously reduce trip costs and ensure that we're in greater control of our travel environment. While checkpoints certainly exist along many U.S. roads, most of our Alt Breaks do not come near these checkpoints.


Please note that students are not required to drive for their AB experience. Only those who are willing and able to complete the driver certification process (an online training module and completion form) and submit a copy of their driver's license might be asked to drive on their Alt Break.

AB Discounts

Alternative Breaks discounts are funds that our program receives to help reduce the cost of the AB experience to individual students. Since these funds are given directly to the program and are then used to lower individual participant payments, there are no legal or donor restrictions related to legal status on who can access these discounts.

Therefore, our non-invasive AB Discount Application will not ask students to disclose whether they graduated from a Utah high school nor if they hold U.S. Citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident Status. These discounts are not connected to, processed by, nor reported to the University's Financial Aid Office and are not determined by nor affect a student's FAFSA.

Trips with Additional Barriers to Undocumented Students

The following two experiences either approach (in the case of the Immigration AB) or cross (in the case of the Community Health AB) a national border, and therefore may present greater barriers and risks to undocumented students. Please read about each experience for specific information.

The Immigration experience to San Diego, CA will not cross the border into Tijuana, Mexico.

There are, however, several potential risks associated with this experience that all students should be aware of. While these risks are manageable, avoiding them and keeping participants safe is most effectively done when we know who is on our teams.

If students are comfortable disclosing their undocumented status to the Alternative Breaks Program Manager, we welcome the information and will work with them to provide information and talk with the leadership of their break to ensure all students are safe and able to participate in every component of the experience. Students can also have another person/department notify the Bennion Center that an undocumented student is participating on the experience. The same steps will be taken to ensure students' safety.

When requested, students' anonymity will be respected at every possible turn. We are happy to work with families and other supporting offices on campus when making any arrangements within the program as well.

Over the past year, we have directly asked all our community partners in San Diego about the work they do with undocumented volunteers (with or without DACA). Information from those conversations is shared below.

Border Angels

Border Angels / Ángeles de la frontera is a San Diego-based non-profit and a long-standing partner of our Alternative Breaks program. Advocating for human rights, humane immigration reform, and justice along the U.S.-México border, Border Angels works to reduce deaths across the border through their volunteer and community awareness programs. Some of these programs present barriers and risks to undocumented volunteers.

Water Drop & Cemetery of the Not Forgotten / Cementerio de los no olvidados

These projects include a guided trip into the desert to place water along migrant crossing routes and a visit to a cemetery containing the remains of individuals who died crossing the border and whose bodies were not identified or claimed. Volunteers place their gallons of water along these routes and may engage in cleaning the cemetery or arranging crosses and flowers along the unmarked graves.

These projects occur in Valle Imperial (Jacumba and Holtville, about two hours from the Border Angels headquarters in San Diego). There is a checkpoint along the usual route for the drive. Border Angels staff reports that the checkpoint isn't frequently set up and that, when it is, they don't stop any cars. Border Angels has never been stopped while traveling to these projects, though they do know that large vans and buses are at greater risk of being stopped and searched. The checkpoint can be set up at any time and this experience could change rapidly, so Border Angels has determined that these projects are not safe for a person without papers. Staff at the organization believe DACA or any legal status would be sufficient at the checkpoint.

Friendship Park / Parque de amistad

This park is located on the U.S.-México border in the San Diego-Tijuana area, covering a half-acre between the two nations. Getting to the park includes a walk/hike, and the park and the areas around it are the territory of border patrol. Border patrol agents can ask for documentation/proof of legal status at any time in these areas.

Border Angels reports that an increase in the number of asylum seekers coming to the U.S. from or through Mexico near Friendship Park and the surrounding areas has resulted in high tensions in the area. Therefore, they have determined that the climate of the territory would not be safe for an undocumented volunteer.

Conclusions on Border Angels

Following our conversations with Border Angels, we have determined that our program and all our students will not participate in the projects above if we are trusted with the information that one of our participants is undocumented. Instead, we will coordinate different projects with the organization (if the student Site Leader desires), including donations delivery, a tour of Chicano Park, and/or an educational movie night with Border Angels staff. The organization has shared that these activities are safe for all volunteers, regardless of citizenship status.

Please note that, if this is the course of action we choose to follow for the sake of our students, no other student participants will be made aware that we've changed our plans with Border Angels or why we will not be participating in the first two volunteer opportunities; we believe in the right of every person to share their own story and will not disclose any student's information when it is not necessary to do so.

Other Community Partners in San Diego

So far, all the other community organizations we have partnered with in San Diego have said that they do not have requirements of their volunteers in terms of documentation or legal status. The projects we complete with them and the routes we have used to travel to them have not presented additional risks that we have identified or that we have been made aware of.

As this experience requires international travel, participants must be able to provide the necessary documentation to travel into Canada and to return to the United States. For the safety of our students, we ask that participants on this experience be able to provide a passport, government-issued photo ID, and, when necessary, proof of lawful permanent residence in the United States.

Entering Canada
Canadian law requires that every person entering the country must provide proof of both citizenship and identity. A valid U.S. passport, passport card, or another document proving U.S. nationality or permanent residence (green card)—together with a government-issued photo ID—are acceptable to establish identity and nationality. 

Re-entering the United States
Proof of citizenship and identity will be necessary when crossing into the United States from Canada. A valid U.S. passport or passport card, or other documentation proving lawful permanent residence and identity, must be provided at the time of re-entry.


Note on Active Citizenship

The national Alternative Breaks movement works to promote what is called "active citizenship." With this language at the heart of the movement—and of our program—it is important to name that, for us, "citizenship" is not exclusive nor at all related to a person's immigration or legal status. Instead, the word is meant to convey a sense of identification with and care for a community. Active citizens are folx who are educated about the state of justice in their self-defined communities, and who reflect on that knowledge to center the health and well-being of those communities in their decision-making.

Additional Campus Resources

Dream Center
Phone: 801-213-3697
Annex (Wing) B #1118

Counseling Center | International Students 
Phone: 801-581-6826
Make an Appointment
Student Services Building (SSB) 426

Pregnant Students

Pregnant students are welcome to participate in all Bennion Center programming, including Alternative Breaks experiences. Students who are pregnant are encouraged to talk to their doctor/OB-GYN prior to applying for and participating on an Alternative Break to discuss their safety and that of their fetus while traveling and engaging in the activities associated with each Alternative Break experience. Students with questions regarding the usual activities on each break should contact the leaders of the experience to discuss their plans in detail.

All requests for reasonable accommodations will be fulfilled by Bennion Center staff and the Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner of the Alternative Break. Examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant students on an Alternative Break could include:

  • flexibility with participation in community engagement activities
  • adjusted routes in and around cities and community partner sites (such as accessing elevators or being dropped off at a site with other team members prior to parking)
  • allowing frequent trips to the restroom
  • priority in sleeping accommodations in on-site and en-route lodging
    • Please reference the "Gender & Sexuality" tab below for specifics on our usual lodging types and how we create sleeping arrangements with our groups.
  • priority in seating arrangements in the vans en-route to and within host communities
  • equitable access to meal preferences and snack requests
    • Please reference the "Food" tab below to see how we view food and meals as a point of inclusion and community building within our program, along with other food logistics.

Parenting Students

Unfortunately, the Bennion Center and the University of Utah are unable to provide professional child care services for the full duration of an Alternative Break experience. Because children who are not U of U students cannot accompany their parent/guardian on an Alternative Break, parenting students interested in participating on an Alternative Break experience would need to talk with family (given or chosen) and trusted friends about taking on the responsibility of caring for the child(ren) while the student is on the break.

Alternative Weekend Breaks

Parenting students who may find it difficult to secure child care support for a full week are encouraged to consider participating in one of the Bennion Center's Alternative Weekend Break experiences. These weekend AB experiences begin on a Friday afternoon and have participants home by Sunday afternoon, shortening the time away from home and reducing the cost to students (each weekend break costs $50) while still offering the community engagement, education, and reflection that define an Alt Break.

Currently, our weekend breaks take place in either Salt Lake City (fall) or Rio Mesa, UT (spring), allowing parenting students to stay closer to home should they need to leave the AB team to be with their child(ren) during an emergency. That said, cell service is limited to non-existent in Rio Mesa and participants on the spring weekend break will likely be unable to receive communications from their child(ren) or care providers.

Additional Campus Resources

Center for Child Care &
Family Resources

Phone: 801-585-5897
Union Rm. 408

The Bennion Center is committed to ADA accessibility standards in its programming and will work with the University's Center for Disability & Access to best serve students' needs on an individual basis.

Deaf Students & Students Who Are Hard Of Hearing

A person who is deaf or hard of hearing can experience barriers in communicating with non-deaf individuals, especially when working in a group setting. One central accommodation for these students is interpreting services for students who utilize American Sign Language or Cued American English to access educational, interpersonal, and group environments.

Interpreting on Alternative Breaks

Working with the Center for Disability & Access (CDA) and their Deaf Services team, the Bennion Center will make arrangements to ensure interpreters can accompany the Alternative Break group for all essential components of the experience, including volunteer projects, educational activities/discussions, reflections, and recreational group activities.

The CDA will arrange for a minimum of two interpreters to be present with the group throughout the break. Some interpreters may be employees of the University of Utah, while others may be contracted from within the host city of the Alternative Break for interpreting services. Whether or not interpreters accompany the Alternative Breaks group on the drive to their host community is up to the discretion of CDA and the comfort of the interpreters. Should interpreters not accompany the group en-route to/from the city, it will be up to the student and their peers to build community using written/typed or other non-verbal communication methods while traveling. While this can be a fun opportunity for non-deaf students to learn some sign, we recognize that it can also place additional burden on deaf students to ensure that they can join their peers in the community building that often happens while traveling. 

Sometimes, the lodging of the group will be adequate to provide the interpreter team with private lodging/sleeping arrangements within the same building. Other times, however, the Bennion Center may book separate lodging accommodations for interpreters (near the group's lodging) so that they can have down time away from their work. In either case, interpreters will not be asked to remain with the group after the essential components of the Alternative Break experiences are completed each day. 

In other words, while interpreters will be present for all volunteering, education, reflection, and group activities planned by the Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner of the break, they are not required to be present for any casual group conversations that take place in the evenings/after activities are completed for the day or during free time activities (during which the group may divide and explore the community in different ways). While they may be present for these activities, the CDA and the Bennion Center are invested in the well-being of interpreters as well as students and will ensure interpreters can take care of themselves throughout the experience. During moments without interpreters, the group will need to utilize other communication methods to build inclusive community together.

Other Accommodations

Beyond interpreting, other reasonable accommodations for deaf or hard of hearing students on Alternative Breaks may include, but are not limited to:

  • Captioned videos and written or visual educational materials and reflection activities
  • Adjusted volunteer projects
    • If a volunteer project requires hearing for students to complete safely and successfully, Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners are able to work with our community partners to see if they can arrange volunteer projects for the group or a portion of it that are accessible for a volunteer who is deaf or hard of hearing. This will vary with each organization and the projects may be beyond the control of the Bennion Center.
  • Note taking and sharing (if necessary for the Alternative Breaks experience)
  • Preferred seating in vans or group discussions/events
  • Students utilizing their own assistive technologies are welcome, as possible and desired, to use these technologies on their break.

Additional Campus Resources

Center for Disability & Access (CDA)
Phone: 801-581-5020
Union Rm. 162

One of the greatest barriers our students face to joining the Alternative Breaks program is the cost of each experience. While a volunteer experience, students are still expected to pay in order to participate in the program. The cost of each experience is all-inclusive, covering 100% of participants' transportation, lodging, food, and all activities/projects required of them during the Alternative Break.

Below are some of the ways we attempt to alleviate the financial burden of participating to students.

AB Discounts

In order to reduce this significant barrier to students, the Bennion Center offers "AB discounts" to students who have been placed on an Alternative Breaks experience and who need financial assistance to pay the cost of their break.

Alternative Breaks discounts are funds that our program receives to help reduce the cost of the AB experience to individual students. Since these funds are given directly to the program and are then used to lower individual participant payments, all U of U students are eligible to receive a discount regardless of citizenship status, residency, academic standing/GPA, family contribution, or any other factor.

These discounts are not connected to, processed by, nor reported to the University's Financial Aid Office and are not determined by nor affect a student's FAFSA.

AB Discount Application Process

Access to the AB Discount Application will be shared with all participants upon being offered a spot on an Alternative Breaks experience. All students experiencing a financial need are encouraged to apply for a discount. Our application is meant to be non-invasive, meaning we won't ask students to share any details about their financial situation or the barriers they face to paying for the break. Instead, students will be asked three questions:

  1. Why do you want to participate on this Alternative Breaks experience?
  2. In dollar amount, how much are you able to contribute to the total cost of your Alternative Breaks experience? Please be specific.
  3. How significantly will receiving a discount impact your ability or decision to participate in Alternative Breaks?
    • Students will be asked to select among these options: Very Significantly, Significantly, Less Significantly, and Insignificantly.

Students will also have the option in their application to authorize Alternative Breaks leadership to contact other offices/departments/organizations on campus with which the student is affiliated in order to request support for that individual student's participation in Alternative Breaks. Sponsoring a student's participation is the choice of the organization, and we will only contact these groups if we are unable to meet 100% of students' declared need with our pre-existing funds for AB Discounts.

AB Discounts Timeline

AB Discount Applications will be due shortly after students are offered places on an Alternative Breaks experience. Because the application is short and can be completed quickly, students are encouraged to submit their application as soon as they can to ensure they meet our deadlines.

Decisions regarding AB Discount allocations will be made within three days of the application due date. Students will always be informed of their AB Discount status/amount prior to the due date of any payment for their Alternative Breaks experience. This way, students can decide if the discount we offer will be sufficient for them to cover the cost of their break or if they need to seek additional support, withdraw from the experience, etc.

Payment Plans

All payments to the Bennion Center will be processed via UMarket, the University of Utah's online shopping platform. This platform utilizes a standard credit card processing system, allowing students and their given or chosen to families to make payments for their Alternative Breaks using a debit or credit card as they would for any online purchase. While not preferred, alternative payment methods (cash, check, etc.) can be arranged on a case-by-case basis by contacting Ann Lopez, Alternative Breaks Program Manager.

While we do set deadline for participants to make their down payments and final payments, we are happy to arrange alternative dates and payment plans with students. As long as the total trip cost is made prior to departure, we can arrange any payment plan a student needs in order to be able to finance their AB experience. Some examples of payment plans can include:

  • Making installments toward the total payment: rather than paying the total final payment in one large sum, we can arrange for students to make multiple smaller payments over the course of several weeks (e.g., four payments of $80 made every two weeks, rather than $320 due at one time).
  • Moving the due date of a payment: if a student needs to wait for their next paycheck to be able to make any of their payments for Alternative Breaks, we can easily adjust the deadline for that students to make their payment.
  • Incorporating the $100 down payment into the final payment: it can often be difficult to make large expenditures without much prior notice. Since we notify students' of their placement in Alternative Breaks two weeks prior to down payments being due, it may be difficult for every student to make the payment on time. For this reason, some students choose to incorporate the $100 down payment into their final payment cost. I.e., rather than making a $100 down payment and later making a $300 final payment, some students choose to submit a $400 payment when final payments are due.

Payment plans are set up as unique "products" in UMarket and will not be listed with any other Bennion Center payments or products. Each plan will be named using a participant's initials and the semester of their Alternative Break: "JD Payment Plan - Spring 2020."

The timeline for all AB Discount and payment processes will be posted on our Fall Break, Spring Break, and Weekend Break pages each year.

Additional Campus Resources

 Sophomore Rise Scholarship
an option to help second-year students finance their Alternative Break

Personal Money Management Center
Phone: 801-585-7379
Union Rm. 316

In Alternative Breaks, we understand that food is an opportunity to connect with the people we share spaces with. For that reason, we consider the meals we eat to be a major point of inclusion in our program. Therefore, the leaders of each AB experience will often ask participants what snacks they'd like to have during the week of their break and if they'd be comfortable working with other students to prepare a meal for their AB team one night of the break.

Participants are encouraged to take the opportunity to express their snack desires and opt into (or out of) meal prep as they feel comfortable. While we do work carefully to be responsible stewards of student funds, AB leaders will do what they can to accommodate their participants' requests and to ensure all participants feel heard and included in the food planning process—and that they're enjoying their eating experience on the break!

Food Logistics

Participants' payments will cover 100% of costs associated with meals and snacking on the break. Only in the event that a participant wishes to purchase additional snacks/meals for themselves (grabbing boba or donuts at a local shop, for example) might they be asked to pay for the food themselves. 

Occasionally, teams might decide to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet for the meals they prepare together. This is both to recognize and hold ourselves accountable for the environmental impacts we create as a program and to help offset those with our diets for the week, and to offer participants familiarity with the knowledge and skills necessary to support such diets/decisions in their personal lives. Of course, this is not a requirement of the Alternative Breaks program; if any participant feels uncomfortable with a decision like this made among their group, they are encouraged to talk to their student Site Leader and/or Staff/Faculty Partner to address their concerns.

Food Preparation

AB teams typically work together to prepare meals for each other throughout their experience. Participants will not be required to prepare a meal or complete any task related to food prep with which they are not comfortable. That said, an Alternative Breaks setting can be an excellent and safe opportunity for students to learn new cooking skills (following a recipe, knife skills, baking skills, etc.) from their peers that they can continue to build on throughout the week and into their lives. We encourage students to opt in to this component of the AB experience in any way they feel comfortable.


We are sometimes taught that two people of different genders sharing a bed or room together will invariably lead to sex, and that this would be morally "bad." Therefore, many individualsand, indeed, institutions—feel that conversations regarding lodging in groups must follow a "girls in this space, boys in that space" model.

The Alternative Breaks program does not determine lodging/sleeping arrangements based on gender or sexuality. Instead, each AB team will be led through a process to help them determine the group's sleeping arrangements based on each individual's preferences for a roommate.

All students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the process of making sleeping arrangements on their Alternative Break.

Background To Our Structure

We understand that many of our participants may come into the AB program feeling comfortable with the division of the group into beds/rooms based on assumed sex. We also understand that this binary thinking is harmful, as it fails to recognize trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and agender folx. Additionally, it assumes that two people of the same gender will not engage in sexual or romantic activities anyway. We know that this thinking is learned and that it can be unlearned. This is the framework from which we approach our conversations around lodging with our leadership teams, and how they will organize lodging among their groups.

What The Lodging Conversation Will Entail

We all come to our experiences with different experiences, traumas, needs, and expectations. For that reason, all AB Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners will engage their participants in conversations around their preferences for a roommate. Often, this conversation will begin by showing the participants the lodging that they'll be staying in during their Alternative Break. 

A note on our usual lodging:

On site: While in host communities, most AB groups will stay in Airbnb or other rental properties. This means that the groups will enjoy the privacy of their own house/large apartment for the duration of their time in their host community—having access to several bedrooms, sleeping spaces, kitchen/eating spaces, etc. Under these circumstances, bed numbers and sizes will vary. Some of these Airbnbs may be able to allow private sleeping spaces for individuals who need it for any reason, though this is not guaranteed on any break. Due to lodging costs in some cities (*cough* San Francisco *cough*), some of our teams stay in hostels. In these cases, the teams will likely reserve 2-3 rooms to be shared among the participants. Usually, these rooms will contain twin-sized bunk beds. Bathrooms and meeting and kitchen/dining spaces will typically be shared with the other travelers staying in the hostel.

On-route: If AB groups stop and stay somewhere overnight on their way to or from their host community, they will almost always reserve three rooms in a hotel or motel. These rooms will typically each have two queen-sized beds, meaning participants may be asked to share a bed. Some teams do find affordable Airbnbs for their on-route lodging, in which case the entire space will be for the group alone and bed/sleeping arrangements will vary.

To find out what type of lodging the break you're interested in has reserved, please feel free to contact the Site Leader or Staff/Faculty Partner of the break to ask for specific layouts and room/bed arrangements.

How sleeping arrangements will be determined:

After introducing participants to their lodging facilities, Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners will ask everyone to consider what their needs are in a roommate to feel safe and comfortable for the duration of their AB experience. Usually, they will ask participants to consider things that are not gender in these needs. Some example needs/preferences include:

  • Late night sleeper/early morning riser
  • Light/no light
  • Snoring strategies (Do you do it? Can you handle it if someone else does?)
  • Clean/messy
  • Snacks in bed/anti-crumbies
  • Blanket burrito/toes out
  • Sharing/personal space
  • Homework/chatting all night/right to bed
  • 1 alarm and up/23 alarms and still snoozin'

These are things that we all think about when we share a sleeping space with others. After collecting this information from each participant individually (either written on paper or submitted in a Google survey), the leadership of each break will determine who might be good fits for each other based off of their preferences and the group's particular lodging accommodations. These "room assignments" will be shared with the team and should be considered tentative and flexible, as our experiences and preferences may change over time.

There Are Valid Reasons To Have Lodging Preferences Based Gender

Our goal in actively working against the "traditional," binary methods of determining sleeping arrangements is not to say that wanting to share a sleeping space with someone of the same gender as you is bad. Rather, it is an acknowledgement that one can't understand who is the same gender as you based on physiological assumptions. In other words, we recognize that a person can have, for example, a valid preference to "room with women." At the same time we recognize that, in the same example, this person can't know that someone is a woman by looking at them. Of course, there are also valid reasons to prefer not rooming with someone who does hold to a strict concept of gender/ing.

Ultimately, we want to engage participants in conversations around where our gender-based preferences are coming from; to check that, within our preferences, we neither assume nor erase the identities and experiences of others; to collectively hold accountability for our learned methods of thinking; and to ensure that all students can feel safe, comfortable, and seen within the Alternative Breaks program without having to continually come out to strangers in order to have their needs met.

We know that very real concerns exist for some people regarding sharing a room/bed with a person of the opposite gender. Experiences with violence, sexual assault, and other traumas and individual spiritualities and cultures are examples that we take seriously. If participants experience concerns during lodging conversations for these reasons, we encourage them to feel empowered to address these concerns with the leadership of their break or with the Alternative Breaks Program Manager. These concerns can be disclosed anonymously, if desired, and can be included in participants' list of preferences when called for by their AB leaders.

We do not take this practice lightly, and we encourage all of our participants to critique this and other experiences they may have had with lodging as well. Questions and comments can be directed to Ann Lopez.



Other components of the AB Experience

Of course, questions of gender and sexuality can arise in many different and unique ways on an Alternative Breaks experience. Things like driving, the division of chores (cooking, cleaning) at the Airbnb, projects with community partners (who's asked to do what work), and what bathrooms and other resources are available in any given space can be brought up in ways that feel uncomfortable or that may apply pressure to certain members of the AB group.

We train our leadership around recognizing these potential points of discomfort and exclusion and addressing them in a way that removes the burden from participants while also not outing anyone on their team. Many leaders will preemptively ask their community partners questions regarding the bathrooms available for us in their space so that this information can be readily shared with their participant teams.  Harmful binary and gender-based speech and practices can and should be interrupted when they occur, and we hope to do so in a way that both supports our participants and maintains respect for the assets of our host communities and partners.

Additional Campus Resources

LGBT Resource Center
Phone: 801-587-7973
Union Rm. 409

Women's Resource Center
Phone: 801-581-8030
Union Rm. 411

Office for Equity & Diversity
Phone: 801-581-7569
OED Contact Form
Park Building Rm. 120

Under University of Utah policy, all student Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners within the Alternative Breaks program are required to report situations or any disclosed instances involving sexual misconduct and discrimination to the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA). 

This policy is in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the comprehensive law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity—including Alternative Breaks and all Bennion Center programs—and is meant to ensure the safety of our campus and to provide resources and care for survivors of sexual misconduct and discrimination.

All participants are advised that, while many Alternative Breaks groups will agree to keep their conversations and activities private during the week of their AB experience, there are certain conversations that your Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner are legally required to report to OEO. Accordingly, all our leadership receives training on how to compassionately and effectively make a report to OEO and connect students to additional campus resources.

What does a report look like?

If you choose to disclose any instance or experience of sexual misconduct or discrimination with one of the leaders of your Alternative Break, here's what you can expect:

  • The person you've shared the information will support you and your current relationship to your experiences.
  • The person you've shared the information with will make a report to OEO, and they will notify the Alternative Breaks Program Manager that a report has been submitted.
    • The person you've shared information with will not ask for any additional information to make the report—they will only provide OEO with the information that you've disclosed to them.
    • The only information that they share with the AB Program Manager is that they have made the report. They are not required to disclose the details of the report to the Bennion Center unless they or you feel that doing so is necessary.
  • The report will be made using on online form, sending an email, or calling OEO on the phone.
  • OEO will receive the report, and they will contact you via email to offer resources and personal support. The staff at OEO will not make assumptions about your possible experience with sexual misconduct and discrimination. Instead, they will share information with you and ensure that you are empowered to access campus resources should you choose to do so.
  • Following this initial email outreach, OEO may contact you an additional time. To what extent and in which capacities you work with OEO or other campus resources is completely up to you.

We agreed to maintain privacy on our break... Can I ask my AB leader not to make the report?

Regardless of any group agreements you've made, your Alternative Breaks Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner are legally required to report instances of sexual misconduct and discrimination to the University. They should notify you of their status as "mandatory reporters" during your pre-departure meetings.

Should you wish to talk with someone about any experience you may have had with sexual misconduct who can maintain confidentiality (i.e., who is not legally required to report the misconduct to OEO), please connect with one of the confidential counseling resources at the University of Utah listed below.

Additional Campus Resources

Confidential Campus Resources

Women's Resource Center
Phone: 801-581-8030
Union Rm. 411
Counseling Center
Phone: 801-581-6826
Make an Appointment
Student Services Building (SSB) 426
Victim-Survivor Advocacy:
Center for Student Wellness
Phone: (801) 581-7776
Student Services Building (SSB) 328

Alternative Breaks experiences can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. All participants are encouraged to take steps to keep themselves safe and work toward wellness prior to, during, and after the Alternative Break.

Additionally, we recognize that many folx of marginalized identities are asked—or even expect ourselves—to take on additional emotional labor and serve as a source of education on oppression for folx who do not share the same identities or similar experiences. In all stages of the program, we're honored to hear from any participants and leaders who wish to share their stories with us or their peers—but we expect it from no one. Our stories are ours to share and withhold as we determine for ourselves. All participants are encouraged to consider their own identities and experiences as they approach the topic of their Alternative Break to decide for themselves if they're at a stage where they can engage safely and meaningfully with that topic.

Below we share information and possible preparations that all students can consider regarding their mental and emotional wellness on an Alternative Breaks experience.

Topic/Focus Of Each AB Experience (Trigger &  Content Warnings)

Prior to applying for any Alternative Breaks experience, students are encouraged to hold their experiences and traumas with care for themselves and consider some of the possible triggers they may encounter while on their break. Below we share warning of possible triggers and heavy content that students may encounter on specific AB experiences. As the projects, materials, and content of each break change from year to year, all participants are encouraged to ask the Site Leaders of the breaks they're interested in what materials they plan to utilize during the experience. This is the best way to guage for yourself if you feel comfortable engaging with specific topics or participating on a certain break.

This is not a comprehensive list of the experiences we offer, nor is it exhaustive in its consideration of all possible triggers and content that participants may find sensitive or difficult to address (for example, virtually any experience can address topics of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, classism, ableism, colonialism, etc.):

  • Animal Advocacy & Rehabilitation: violence against and abuse of non-human animals; death of animals
  • Community Health: mental illness; drug use; addiction; death
  • Defeminizing Poverty: violence against women and femmes; violence against children; interpersonal and sexual violence; exploitation; death
  • HIV & AIDS: drug use; addiction; sexual violence; death
  • Housing Justice: drug use; addiction; violence against minoritized communities; death
  • Hunger & Food Justice: hunger; child hunger; eating disorders; death
  • Immigration: violence; separation of families; exploitation; death
  • Queering Justice: violence against queer and trans folx; interpersonal and sexual violence; self-harm and suicide; exploitation; death
  • Refugee Rights & Resettlement: violence; war; separation of families; exploitation; death
  • Youth Empowerment: violence against and abuse of children; kidnapping and abduction; drug use; addiction; self-harm and suicide; death
  • Additionally, many of our experiences focused on environmental components of justice may address concepts of perceived futility and helplessness that can feel discouraging and even alarming to some.

Direct Service, Education, & Reflection

The Bennion Center's Alternative Breaks program, and each trip within it, is designed to create a fairly intensive and immersive educational and community-based experience for its participants. That said, the amount of work, emotional and mental labor, and time spent addressing certain concepts and engaging communities each day of the break can be quite draining. 

In general, participants can expect to spend roughly 8 hours a day on scheduled activities, education, and reflection:

  • 5 hours of direct service (volunteer projects, often physical work)
  • 1 hour of education (specific to the topic of the AB experience)
  • 1 hour of reflection (group dialogues meant to apply the direct service and education to our own experiences and commitments to communities, often a heavily emotional process)
  • 1 hour of down time (meant for self-care, can often become social time for participants which can be more draining for our introverts)

It is not uncommon for participants—students, Site Leaders, and Staff/Faculty Partners alike—to return from their Alternative Break feeling emotionally, mentally, and/or physically exhausted. This is a cost to participating in our program that we do not take lightly and that we actively work to address. All students are encouraged to consider this cost for themselves, and—should they choose to participate—to center their own wellness and that of their peers throughout their Alt Breaks journey. Introducing self-care agreements during a pre-departure meeting, modeling this care during the break, and asking for what you need can all be great supporters of the wellness of everyone in the group.

All ideas for supporting wellness throughout the Alt Break should be shared with your Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner.

Travel & Non-Local Living

Traveling and living away from home can take a physical and emotional toll on any person. While traveling to non-local communities to share diverse stories and work is one of the central components of our program, we recognize that it can have costs to students beyond the financial.

Some difficulties or stressors that folx can encounter while traveling can be:

  • Unfamiliarity with place, people, available resources, orientation, etc.
    • Can often lead to a sense (or reality) of being lost
  • Lack of the comforts of home
    • Own bed, pets, physical support systems, favorite restaurant, etc.
  • Pressure to be outgoing and extroverted
    • Especially in the group setting of an Alternative Break, it can feel like there's a need to always want to be with others, to explore, to be and have fun. While not always the case, this pressure can be quite tiring for folx, especially our introverts.
  • Time spent traveling
    • The long drives can offer the same pressure discussed above as well as have a physical toll on folx as they remain stationary for an extended period of time
  • Home concerns
    • Life doesn't stop on an Alternative Break. Things can happen at home that may make folx feel helpless as they can't support their loved ones as they'd like to. 
  • Review this article for more possible stressors while traveling and tips for addressing them.

Below, we've shared a resource developed by the University of Utah's Counseling Center to help us all plan for our own well-being while we're traveling.

Crises & Conflicts

The days are long and demanding, topics and conversations can be stressful, and the lack of the comforts and supports of home is real. Conflicts among members of the group can happen. 

Now, some conflict is a good thing. The conflict we feel in ourselves when our perceptions are challenged and we call our experiences and perhaps even identities into question; the conflict that exists in a mature dialogue, raising disagreements and conflicting ideas; the conflict of which donut to buy at Voodoo Doughnuts—we want these conflicts to happen! 

What we don't want is for an interpersonal conflict to escalate to the point that relationships are damaged, the AB experience is impacted, and students no longer feel comfortable nor want to be around each other. This, however, has happened on Alternative Breaks and will happen again. 

While we do provide conflict resolution training for all our Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners, no one is an expert in navigating conflicts and interpersonal relationships. A theoretical training session at the University of Utah doesn't always guarantee a conflict-free group experience on the break. Students should be aware that, while certainly not a guaranteed component of the AB experience, these interpersonal conflicts can happen on Alt Breaks and will take openness and compassion from everyone involved to resolve. 

Crises on Alternative Breaks

Crises are also a very real concern when traveling and participating on an Alternative Break. While each crisis needs to be handled on an individual basis, we do offer crisis management training to our leadership as well. Because crisis management is contextual and individual, below we offer some of the crises that we've encountered (or that could reasonably arise) that students and their given/chosen families should be aware of when choosing to join the program:

  • Break-ins to vans, lodging
  • Theft/loss of personal belongings
  • Vehicle accidents
  • Vehicle breakdown
  • Separation from group/getting lost
  • Discrimination or hostility toward individual or group
  • Personal injuries
  • Allergic reactions
  • Existential crises

A Resource From The U Of U Counseling Center

The University of Utah's Counseling Center has been a consistent partner of the Bennion Center's Alternative Breaks program, facilitating trainings for our Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners and sharing resources and ideas with the program to best prepare all students participating in the program.

One such resource is the worksheet you can download using the button below. This short worksheet will ask you to anticipate some of the difficult experiences and situations you may encounter while away, and reflect on responses and coping strategies you can utilize to support yourself and your team should these situations arise. Every participant is encouraged to spend time reviewing this worksheet and responding to its prompts prior to departing for their Alternative Break. If you would like a copy of the document printed for free, please email Ann Lopez and we'll have it ready for you to pick up in the Bennion Center as soon as possible. Questions about the document can be posed to your Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner, the Alternative Breaks Program Manager, or the fine folx at the Counseling Center.

Download Resource: Planning for Emotional Well-being While Away

In regard to the final section of the worksheet, please note that the Alternative Breaks Admin Team will prepare all Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners with the information of the hospitals, mental health agencies, reproductive health organizations (Planned Parenthood), and other emergency services nearest to all lodging and volunteer sites. They will also be supplied with the contact information of emergency contacts at the University and for each of their participants. Students are encouraged to complete this section with all other contacts they may need or like to have during their break.

Additional Campus Resources

Counseling Center
Phone: 801-581-6826
Make an Appointment
Student Services Building (SSB) 426
Center for Student Wellness
Phone: 801-581-7200
Student Life Center, Suite 2100
Women's Resource Center
Phone: 801-581-8030
Union Rm. 411

The Bennion Center is committed to ADA accessibility standards in its programming and will work with the University's Center for Disability & Access to best serve students' needs on an individual basis.

Accommodations For Physical Or Mobility Impairments

As mobility impairments range widely and individuals have different experiences and relationships with their mobility limitations, the Bennion Center will work with students and the CDA team to provide reasonable accommodations on an individual basis so that students may enjoy an equitable Alternative Breaks experience with their peers. Reasonable mobility-related accommodations for students on Alternative Breaks can include, but are not limited to:

  • Accessible transportation
    • The University of Utah can contract a wheelchair-accessible vehicle with reasonable notice.
  • Accessible lodging
    • We work to ensure the lodging we book contains sleeping spaces, a restroom, eating spaces, and group/reflection spaces that are accessible to folx who use a wheelchair or other mobility aid (i.e., that do not require climbing stairs to enter). If, however, our lodging does not prove accessible for any student in the group, we can and will (with reasonable notice) reserve lodging that will allow everyone in the group to access these spaces.
    • Alternatively and depending on students' needs and hosts' permissions, the Bennion Center may also rent ramps or other temporary fixtures to allow all students access into and around lodging spaces.
    • We cannot guarantee that lodging sites will contain such provisions as grab bars in restrooms/showers, walk-in showers, or other safety devices.
  • Adjusted routes in and around cities and community partner sites (such as accessing elevators or being dropped off at a site with other team members prior to parking)
    • While we cannot guarantee that all of our community partner organizations operate in spaces that are ADA-compliant, we can coordinate with them prior to departure to get specific information related to the layout and accessibility of their office space and the site of a volunteer project.
  • Adjusted volunteer projects
    • If a volunteer project requires a level of mobility or physical ability that not all students have in order to completed safely and successfully, Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners are able to work with our community partners to see if they can arrange volunteer projects for the group or a portion of it that are accessible within the physical ability of the participants. This will vary with each organization and the projects may be beyond the control of the Bennion Center.
  • Priority in sleeping accommodations in on-site and en-route lodging
    • Please reference the "Gender & Sexuality" tab below for specifics on our usual lodging types and how we create sleeping arrangements with our groups.
  • Note taking and sharing (if necessary for the Alternative Breaks experience).

Additional Campus Resources

Center for Disability & Access (CDA)
Phone: 801-581-5020
Union Rm. 162

As a University-sanctioned program, Alternative Breaks does not count against students' residency. Following Utah System of Higher Education policies (linked in full below), time spent on an Alternative Breaks experience will not be counted in the 30 out-of-state days allocated to non-resident students working to establish residency for tuition purposes.

Non-resident students are encouraged to apply for and participate in Alternative Breaks. Upon return from your AB experience, simply request a letter of support/verification from Ann Lopezl, Alternative Breaks Program Coordinator, to verify your participation in this University program and to exempt your time out-of-state from counting against your residency.

From the Utah System of Higher Education R512:

5.3. Absence from state: A student will not jeopardize his or her status under this section solely by absence from the state for a period of less than 30 total days during the 12-month period. See Frame v. Residency Appeals Committee, 675 P2d. 1157 (Utah 1983). If a student leaves the state for the purpose of satisfying the requirements for institutional internships, institutional courses, study abroad programs, or athletic training, required by the institution the student will not be deemed to be absent from the state for purposes of this section for the period of time that he or she can establish that these purposes were being met. Once a student has been granted resident student status, any future absence from the state will not negatively affect his or her resident student status.

Additional Campus Resources

Office of Admissions
Phone: 801-581-8761
Fax: 801-585-7864

Board of Regents R512 Policies and Procedures
(R512.5 Section 5.3, Page 8)


The Bennion Center is committed to ADA accessibility standards in its programming and will work with the University's Center for Disability & Access to best serve students' needs on an individual basis.

It is important to note the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. Service animals (typically dogs, but also miniature horses) have been trained to perform specific tasks that a person cannot perform on their own. Service animals are offered protections outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For this reason, service animals are allowed in public spaces where other animals (possibly including emotional support animals) may not be allowed to go.

Alternatively, emotional support animals (ESAs) are not trained in specific tasks, nor are there as many limitations on the types of animals that qualify; dogs, cats, birds, snakesall can qualify as emotional support animals. ESAs are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Service Animals

Service animals are welcome on Alternative Breaks. Fortunately, the regulations set out in the Americans with Disabilities Act require all state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public to allow service animals to accompany their owners in all areas of the facility where the public is generally allowed to go. As the ADA applies to all hotels and similar accommodations as well, all the spaces generally entered on a domestic Alternative Breaks experience must allow service animals to accompany their partners.

That said, the Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner of each Alternative Breaks experience will be able to contact each of their community partner organizations, Airbnb/hotel hosts, and other sites to be visited on the break to notify them that the group will be accompanied by the service animal, ask for specifics about how the animal will be accommodated, and to collect any information that the student with the service animal needs to be aware of (the student will need to communicate this need with the leaders of their break).

Additionally, we have offered the following accommodations to students and their service animals in the past. This list is meant to offer examples of accommodations, not an exhaustive list of what we can provide working with individual students and their circumstances:*

  • Adequate seating in vehicles to allow the animal to accompany the student
    • Typically, we reserve two 7-person minivans for a 12-person team. This has allowed sufficient space for service animals in the past.
  • Regular stops on the drive to and from the host community for potty breaks and stretches for the animal
    • Specific needs of the animal and its student partner should be communicated with the leaders of the Alternative Break
  • Time away from volunteer projects, as needed for potty breaks
  • Adjusted volunteer projects, if necessary
    • It's possible that some volunteer projects may take place at a site or in a space not protected under the provisions of the ADA. If this is the case, Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners are able to work with our community partners to see if they can arrange volunteer projects for the group or a portion of it that are accessible within the physical ability of the participants. This will vary with each organization and the projects may be beyond the control of the Bennion Center.
  • Priority in sleeping accommodations in on-site and en-route lodging, as well as in vehicles.
    • Please reference the "Gender & Sexuality" tab above for specifics on our usual lodging types and how we create sleeping arrangements with our groups.
    • Sleeping arrangements in lodging and seating in the vehicles can be arranged to ensure students with allergies or any aversions to animals (trauma-based, cultural, or otherwise) are not asked to share a space with the service animal.
  • Time during a pre-departure meeting to address expectations and needs of the animal and its student partner with the Alternative Breaks group
    • The student can present these expectations and needs themselves, if they feel comfortable. They can also communicate the information to their Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner for them to relay to the larger group.

*Students will be responsible for supplying all food, medicines, and other supplies that the service animals will need for the duration of the Alternative Break.

Service Animals on the "Community Health" Experience in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Of course, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal policy. This means that different regulations and protections for service animals exist outside of the United States. While currently we offer only one international Alternative Breaks experience—the "Community Health" experience in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada—we encourage students to research service animal policies surrounding traveling into, around, and back out of the country they're visiting prior to departure.

Generally, we have identified that service animals receive similar protections in Canada that they receive in the United States. However, we have not yet contacted the agencies we work with in Canada to inquire about the specifics of their accommodations of service animals; nor have we gained any first-hand experience of crossing the border into Canada and back into the United States with a service animal.

Below we have shared several resources we used to look into policies surrounding crossing the border (both ways) with service animals as well as Canadian laws surrounding the animals. Students are encouraged to complete their own research on the topic prior to applying for this experience. When a student with a service animal joins us for this Alternative Break, we will offer the same accommodations that we offer students and their animals on domestic AB experiences and can support them in the process of ensuring their safety and that of the service animal throughout the break.

Emotional Support Animals

Following University of Utah policies and the suggestions of the CDA, emotional support animals are not allowed on Alternative Breaks at this time. While ESAs do receive some accommodations from different organizations (Airbnb, for example, provides the same protections to ESAs as service animals), they are not protected under the ADA. This means that hotels, nonprofit organizations, and public or government institutions such as universities, parks, etc. are not required to allow ESAs into their public spaces.

Because many of the organizations we work with, hotels we stay at, and spaces we enter on Alternative Breaks will likely not allow the entry of emotional support animals, the Bennion Center cannot guarantee the safety of the animal nor an equitable experience for its student partner. Therefore, ESAs are not allowed on Alternative Breaks experiences under current policies.

Additional Campus Resources

Center for Disability & Access (CDA)
Phone: 801-581-5020
Union Rm. 162

Additional References For Traveling To Canada With A Service Animal


No skills or previous experiences are required to participate on any Alternative Breaks experience.

While an Alternative Break has a clear objectiveto mobilize students in the telling of personal and communal narratives and participating in community engagement projects, a robust educational curriculum, and intensive reflection sessions all focused within a broad topic of justice—we consider the AB experience to be one in which students can gain additional skills as well.

Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners or representatives of community partner organizations will provide the training, orientation, or education necessary for any activity required (or even optional) on an Alt Break to be successfully completed. For this reason, no prior skills or experience will be needed to complete any projects or participate in any activities on the break. If a student does not feel comfortable participating in these activities for any reason, they should contact their Site Leader, Staff/Faculty Partner, or the Alternative Breaks Program Manager to address their concerns.


Some of our AB experiences require participants to camp or stay in wilderness areas during their break. We recognize that many students have valid reservations about camping rooted in past (including ancestral) experiences, the identities they hold, or a lack of previous camping experience.

Within each student's comfort and safety, we offer Alternative Breaks experiences as a way to engage in camping and wilderness exploration in a safe, group setting. All supplies necessary for the experience will be provided by the Bennion Center, and the leadership of the break will have the skills necessary to have the experience safely—and will be able to train their participants in these skills as well.

Currently, our experiences that involve camping or staying in wilderness areas include:

  • Identity & Environmental Exploration — San Rafael Swell, UT (fall, first-gen student experience; participants camp in tents and prepare their meals using fire pits and propane grills)
  • Environmental Stewardship — Rio Mesa, UT (spring, weekend experience; participants stay in small, cabin-like structures and prepare their food using fire pits and propane grills)
  • Indigeneity — Colorado Plateau (may include one night of camping in southern Utah)


Sharing food and meals is a large component of building community and sharing space on an Alternative Break experience. That said, we recognize that folx have different experiences with cooking and preparing food for meals. With each student's comfort, we believe Alternative Breaks experiences can provide a safe setting for participants to learn and practice cooking skills (chopping, frying, baking, using different appliances, etc.) in the presence of others who hold these skills.

Of course, no participant will be asked to cook a meal or participate in any portion of food preparation if they do not feel comfortable doing so. Meal prep will be organized by each break's Site Leader and Staff/Faculty Partner, and participants are encouraged to communicate with these folx if they ever feel uncomfortable with their role in food preparation.

For a more detailed look into how we view food and meals as a point of inclusion in our program, please review the "Food" tab above.


Students' payments for their break are used to pay for all necessary group supplies on their AB experience. These supplies include food, materials for education and reflection activities, first aid supplies, and any materials that we commonly expect participants not to own themselvesusually items such as sleeping bags, camping chairs, tents, headlamps, and related camping equipment. These supplies are rented or owned by the Bennion Center and must be returned after returning from the Alternative Break.

Additional resources that individual participants need to be successful on their break are not included in trip costs and are the responsibility of each student to acquire for their AB experience. These materials may include specific clothing items (boots, heavy jackets/coats, etc.), medications, toiletry items, electronics, etc.

Alternative Breakslike the Bennion Center and University of Utah as a wholeis a secular, educationally driven program. We are not a religious organization, nor do we hold direct ties with any religious or faith-based group or institution. That said, we recognize the many and complex roles that spirituality can play not only in justice movements, but in individuals' lives. 

Below is information that participants should be aware of regarding spirituality and religion on Alternative Breaks.

Individual Observations Of Faith & Attendance At Services

We recognize that many participants may wish to continue their personal routines insofar as they are related to their own spirituality, and we welcome all students to do so. While we expect every participant to be engaged in each component of the Alternative Breaks experience (direct community engagement, education, reflection, and group time activities planned by the leadership of the break), any "free time" that Site Leaders and Staff/Faculty Partners schedule into the itinerary can be used to observe spiritual traditions and attend services.* Transportation to such services may need to be arranged and paid for by the participant; however, a University of Utah vehicle may be used for this purpose if allowed by the leaders of the AB experience.

*Short-term observations such as prayers that do not require travel to be completed can be observed at any time during the AB experience. Participants are asked to notify their AB leaders prior to stepping away from the group for these observations. 

Projects With Faith-Based Organizations

Some Site Leaders may choose to partner with faith-based or spiritual organizations doing work in communities related to the focus of their Alternative Breaks experience. Partnering with these organizations should never involve participants being asked to observe a tradition or participate in a prayer or service of a faith that they do not hold themselves. Should such a situation arise, participants should feel empowered to opt out of these traditions, prayers, or services. 

Often, partnering with faith-based organizations is a choice meant to offer educational diversity within the Alternative Breaks experience. If a Site Leader chooses to work with a faith-based organization on their Alternative Break, participants should expect the perspectives and working model of the organization to be critiqued (critiqued, not criticized) during a group reflection and dialogue—just as any organization we work with should be critiqued. These reflections are not meant to work in favor of nor against any religious institution or values system; rather, they are meant both to objectively analyze the role of each of our partners within justice movements and to offer participants the opportunity to develop their own opinions and feelings related to each organization (spiritual or other) and its role in the community.

Additional Campus Resources

Mindfulness Center | University Counseling Center
Student Services Building (SSB) 344

Center for Student Wellness | Spiritual Wellness Resources
Phone: 801-581-7200
Student Life Center, Suite 2100


While we are proud to be able to offer Fall 2020 AB Lite experiences at no cost to our participants, we recognize that economic barriers to participation still exist in the form of access to technology, wifi, and a secure space necessary for any virtual meetings prior to, during, and following the AB Lite experience.

Even if an AB experience is not listed as occurring virtually, it is possible that some pre-break meetings or on-break education will require access to the internet and virtual platforms such as Zoom.

We don't take this accessibility concern lightly, and will work with any interested participants to ensure they have full, uninterrupted access to the devices, internet, and space necessary to participate in these experiences. We can offer students:

  • Access to desktop computers in the Bennion Center (on campus), equipped with UConnect internet connection and webcams for Zoom meetings.
  • A quiet, safe, uninterrupted atmosphere in the Bennion Center while virtual meetings/discussions are taking place for their AB experience. Plus, there'll be plenty of snacks!
  • Assistance in connecting with other University departments/resources to rent any devices or reserve private spaces on campus that can be used for the AB experience.

If you have concerns about what devices/technology will be necessary for Fall 2020 AB Lite experiences, please don't hesitate to contact Ann Lopez, Alternative Breaks Program Coordinator.


Questions and comments about these accommodations and practices may be directed to Ann Lopez, AB Program Manager.

The University of Utah does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information or protected veteran’s status, in employment, treatment, admission, access to educational programs and activities, or other University benefits or services. 

Additionally, the University endeavors to provide reasonable accommodations and to ensure equal access to qualified persons with disabilities. 

Where discrimination is found to have occurred, the University will take reasonable steps to investigate the matter, stop the harassment, prevent its recurrence and remedy its effects.

Inquiries concerning perceived discrimination or requests for disability accommodations may be referred to the University’s Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator: 

Sherrie Hayashi, Director

Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action
201 South Presidents Circle, Rm.135 
Salt Lake City, UT, 84112
801-585-5746 (fax)

Support & GRatitude

Our thanks to the following groups and individuals for their work with the Bennion Center in developing these resources and facilitating trainings for our leadership team around some of the pieces above:

Dream Center

Alonso R. Reyna Rivarola
Dayan Castañeda-Muñoz

Women's Resource Center

Deb Daniels
Kirstin Maanum


University SUpport Services

Lani Twitchell
Roger Kowallis

University Counseling Center

Alexis V. Arczynski
Josh Newbury

Center for Disability & Access

Charity Harding
Scott McAward


Center for Student Wellness

Jenna Templeton

Office of Equal Opportunity

Sheila Sconiers


Break Away
(national AB organization)

Specifically for connecting us with the thoughtwork of Dr. Crystal Jones, and for allowing us to "borrow" some of the language in the introductory paragraphs on this page.

AB Executive Board

Amy Nguyen
Carlos Eduardo Rodriguez Jr.
Erika Gee
Sara Matlock
Sri Radhakrishnan
Zach Barber

Most importantly, our thanks to all the past participants and leaders on our AB experiences who share with us, offer us patience, grow with us, call us out when we need to be called out, and invest the emotional labor to make our program accessible.
It is work that we don't always deserve, and we intend to honor that work in our programming.

Last Updated: 9/21/23