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Community Service

Mizzou Alternative Breaks takes students out of their comfort zones

Published March 20, 2015
Story by Derek Poore

Maddie Brozka

As part of Mizzou Alternative Breaks, Maddie Brozka traveled to the Dominican Republic in January 2015 to work with Outreach360, a non-profit organization that teaches children English. Photo courtesy of Outreach360.

After a service trip during her freshman year, Madeline Brozka was so influenced by helping a community with health issues that she changed her major.

Brozka, an MU junior majoring in Spanish and health sciences, has since made several more Mizzou Alternative Breaks service trips to South Carolina, Texas and Dominican Republic.

“Mizzou Alternative Breaks has pretty much shaped my college experience,” Brozka said. “It was the first real thing for me that made Mizzou home.”

Health Scare

In October of her sophomore year, Brozka was diagnosed with medullary thyroid cancer. Six weeks before she was scheduled to participate in a Mizzou Alternative Breaks trip, Brozka had surgery to remove her thyroid.

“The trip was totally my biggest motivator in my recovery process," Brozka said. "I wasn't about to miss it because of a surgery.”

She credits the trip with helping her get back into things. “It was the perfect opportunity to allow me to stop worrying about myself and be able to focus on other people in this new community.”

Service Year-Round

Mizzou Alternative Breaks began as a student organization in 1991 and is now the second-largest program of its kind. The program sends groups of about a dozen students on trips across the U.S. during the Thanksgiving holiday, winter break and spring break. Weekend trips are also available.

More than 800 students will take part in nearly 75 community service projects over the next week.

“It’s a really great way to meet diverse people from all around Mizzou’s campus,” Brozka said. “You literally get 11 people in a van and you are immediately friends, and you get to do things that matter and are fulfilling.”

Maddie Brozka

Brozka helps children learn the word "surprise." Photo by Bryan Goers.

The students volunteer at places in need of some type of assistance, but the organization has adopted a “Serve, Don’t Help” mantra, and asks students to enter communities in need by serving their needs.

Past trips have stretched from Florida to Colorado, Texas to Massachusetts. Students in the program have volunteered assisting people with issues such as urban poverty, HIV/AIDS and the environment. Winter trips have included visits to other countries such as Nicaragua.


Many students have said the trip helped steer their career paths. The trips can also help students make use of the areas they are already studying.

Upon the return, the program surveys participants and has found that an overwhelming majority say they learned a lot about the community they visited and the issues they were involved with. Nearly 70 percent said the trips let them see a “real-world” application of their major.

Brozka said the program has been humbling and rewarding. She has been to sites that Mizzou Alternative Breaks participants return to year after year because that community requests Mizzou keep coming back, she said.

“You are taken out of your comfort zone when you are serving people in different communities and different regions of the country,” she said. “It is an awesome way to meet people.”

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

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Last updated: Aug. 15, 2017