Through Alternative Break opportunities, Elon students make meaningful contributions to the community

Last fall break, seven Elon students traveled to Winston-Salem to work with Second Harvest addressing food insecurity throughout the state.

The mission of the Elon Kernodle Center for Civic Life is to inspire, educate and prepare students to partner with diverse communities to address local and global challenges while also gaining a deeper understanding of their responsibility to actively contribute to civic life.

The Kernodle Center organizes several events throughout the academic year for students to address “the common good” through community-based engaged and experiential student learning opportunities. One of those opportunities is Alternative Break experiences, which will provide Elon students with the opportunity to serve communities around the state and country during Spring Break this year. Alternative Breaks are immersive service experiences designed to introduce students to new communities while working to address pressing domestic and global social issues.

For an example of how impactful an Alternative Break opportunity can be, look no further than the student experiences of those who participated last Fall Break.

Elon student volunteers packing food items with Second Harvest in Winston-Salem.

On Oct. 14, 2021, seven Elon students and two faculty members traveled to Winston-Salem to combat food insecurity. Food insecurity has been exacerbated due to the pandemic and is especially prevalent in northwestern North Carolina as one in six people in this region are classified as food insecure.

While in Winston-Salem, students partnered with Second Harvest, a food bank that serves 18 communities in North Carolina – including Burlington. For a day, students worked together to organize and sort through packaged food that was eventually served to food-insecure communities. This Alternative Break trip allowed for students to fight this issue which impacts people right outside of their campus. This experience not only raised awareness about food insecurity but also emphasized the importance of giving back to the community.

Nicole McGinty ’23 was one of the seven students that took part in this service-learning trip. She said that the experience highlighted the importance of serving and empowering others.

“Sustainable service is when you provide assistance to others that eventually empowers them to be self-sufficient,” McGinty said.

Tiffany Huang ’22 added that this trip reminded her of how important it is for students to expand their worldview and be conscious of their “positionality.”

“There is so much we can be doing right outside of our campus, big or small. It all makes a difference,” Huang said.

Elon student volunteer carrying a box on produce while working with Second Harvest in Winston-Salem.

The memorable trip also created the opportunity for students to meet and connect, inspiring some to continue participating in service-learning opportunities and to look into bigger opportunities for service. “After this trip, I realized that I want to be a trip leader. So, I actually applied to be a leader for the spring alternative break to Asheville,” Huang said.

This service-learning trip is one of the many opportunities that Elon’s Kernodle Center offers. There are many local trips and opportunities throughout the year that students are encouraged to participate in.

For Spring Break 2022, Elon students will have an opportunity to have a meaningful break with several opportunities:

  • Housing and Homelessness (Washington, D.C.): The Kernodle Center will partner with multiple agencies such as Bread for the City and Martha’s Table to explore the issues of housing and homelessness in the nation’s capital.
  • Poverty and Educational Disparities (Nashville, Tennessee): Partnering with local agencies, the Martha O’Bryan Center and Nashville Rescue Mission, students will have the opportunity to explore poverty and educational disparities facing the Nashville area.
  • Food Security (Asheville, North Carolina): Elon students will work with Bounty and Soul and MANNA Food Bank to explore issues surrounding food security in western North Carolina.
  • Interfaith with the Lakota (Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota): Students will work with Re-Member, a grassroots community effort serving the Lakota Oglala tribe in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Volunteers will stay on the Pine Ridge reservation working on infrastructure projects, as well as spending time with community members and guest speakers. Allison Pelyhes, the multifaith coordinator in the Truitt Center, can be contacted at for more information.

Elon Alternative Breaks is a proud member of Break Away, a national organization supporting alternative break programs at campuses across the country. The Kernodle Center integrates Break Away’s 8 Components of a Quality Alternative Break into the program model.

To apply for the upcoming Spring Alternative Break opportunities, students can visit PhoenixCONNECT. If you have any questions, email Autumn Cox, assistant director for the Kernodle Center, at or stop by the Kernodle Center in Moseley Center 232.