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History

Alternative Spring Break at Howard University

HUASB has immersed participants in unique cultures to provide immediate assistance and to reflect on the challenges prevalent in communities throughout society. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ASB has consistently taken students to New Orleans in an effort to rebuild the city. In 2009, in a demonstration of the University's commitment to ASB, the program was adopted by the office of the president and the mission expanded to include the cities of Detroit, Chicago, and D.C..

The following year, Atlanta was added. In 2011, Haiti was added as the first international destination in response to the displacement and devastation that occurred in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. 

The next year, the program expanded domestically to include Memphis and Baltimore. Even as Atlanta was discontinued in 2014, two new sites were added, which included St. Louis, Newark, and West Virginia, bringing ASB to ten sites total.

On October 22, 2014, Howard University was named to President Barack Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction, which is the highest federal award an institution can receive for service learning and civic engagement. ASB was the major focal point in this distinction.

For more than 20 years, HUASB has been committed to serving communities in need and involving students in meaningful service projects. ASB connects students to the significance of their education and prepares them to be servant leaders for the nation and the world.​​

Cities We've Visited

The total of 318 killings by year's end made 2016 the second-deadliest year per capita on record, second only to 2015, when violence spiked after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. (Baltimore Sun, 2017)  ​In Freddie Gray's neighborhood, 51.8 percent of the residents were unemployed between 2008 and 2012, and the median income was $24,006 per year. (attn.com Gray, 2015).

Baltimore has struggled with rising poverty rates since the early nineties. As the population of East and West Baltimore rapidly changes, the crime rate has steadily increased due to a lack of equal access to employment and economic opportunities. Consequently, youth within the community have found refuge and a means of survival in the only way they know how by joining gangs. Gang affiliation is sought as a means of protection and communal support. Unfortunately, communities in East and West Baltimore are riddled with gang violence and other violent crimes while the northern area of Baltimore are flourishing.

Howard University Alternative Spring Break Baltimore aims to reduce youth violence in the communities of West and East Baltimore through our collaborative efforts with organizations such as PACT, Living Classrooms, and the mentoring of local high school students. Workshops will be held with neighborhood youth on conflict resolution, violence prevention, and college readiness. The focus of HUASB Baltimore will is to combat the effects of gang violence within Baltimore communities by promoting education, college readiness, and community development.

In 2016, the city of Chicago experienced 762 homicides, the highest number in 19 years In 2014 (CNN, 2017) There was a total of 2589 people shot-- totaling out to one person shot approximately every 3 hours. (New York Daily News, 2017)

Chicago is often referred to as the murder capital of the United States. In 2016, there was a total of 762 homicides, which is the highest number of homicides that Chicago has seen in 19 years. A contributing factor to the abundance of neighborhood violence is the inability for many of Chicago’s youth to express their anger and discontent constructively without turning to violence as a coping mechanism. Additionally the financial crisis, that stemmed from Governor Rauner’s failure to pass the annual budget, has had negative impacts on Chicago’s low-income communities and has led to the closing of many safe-havens and state funded organizations that kept Chicago’s youth safe and off of the streets.


Alternative Spring Break-Chicago’s goal is to combat gun and gang violence through youth advocacy and the promotion of the creative arts. This goal will be achieved by closely interacting with need-based communities within Chicago, hosting and participating in gun violence awareness events, partnering with Chicago State University and other advocacy based groups, and implementing advocacy and artistic trauma therapy workshops that were created to give the youth a means of expression. ASB-Chicago will be working alongside local grassroots organizations like: KLEO Family Community Center, The MURAL Foundation, I GROW Chicago, Perspectives Leadership Academy, Chicago State University, Englewood R.A.G.E, and the Young Chicago Authors.

Howard University Alternative Spring Break St. Louis was birthed from the tragic murder of Michael Brown and the racial tensions in Ferguson broadcasted around the world. Although the city of St. Louis no longer remains at the epicenter of a racial and political storm, Howard University Alternative Spring Break-St. Louis will remain focused on social justice by intersecting civic education in secondary classrooms and urban revitalization in inner-city communities.

Howard University Alternative Spring Break-St. Louis will continue its partnerships with Riverview Gardens High School and Normandy High School-- Michael Brown's alma mater. Both educational settings house “at-risk” students and are the lowest performing schools in the state of Missouri (CITE). Alternative Spring Break-St. Louis will implement a social justice-based curriculum focused on civic education to encourage post-secondary education. Howard University students will gauge experiences and spread knowledge through activities focused on community organizing, non-violence, and basic rights with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis and Covenant House Missouri. We are also working with Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and Brightside St. Louis to contribute to community beautification in inner-city areas. At the culmination of the service week, ASB-St.Louis will host an second annual social justice day that encompasses community based service projects and engagement with local community leaders and activists.

Newark Public Schools serves 35,543 students in 71 public education settings. Only 54.4% of those students are proficient in English language and 49.98% are proficient in math. Governor Christie reported a 29% graduation rate for Newark Public Schools in 2012. During the same year, Newark reported 13,481 crimes including: 1,976 robberies, 1,093 assaults, 2,144 burglaries, and 4,093 thefts. Howard University Alternative Spring Break Newark will continue its efforts towards high school retention with a sociopolitical awareness outlined in a well-structured curriculum focused on critical thinking.

The curriculum will identify and hopes to rectifying disparities in education, economics, and youth development. Howard University students will work in Newark Public High Schools providing tutoring, mentoring, and outreach. Additionally, Howard University Alternative Spring Break Newark will collaborate with local grassroots organizations to take part in community development and engagement projects.

In December 2014, the federal government opened the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas (approximately 80 minutes southwest of San Antonio). This detention center is the largest in the United States and houses immigrant mothers and young children who fled their home countries, in Central America, due to life-threatening violence.  Although a judge’s order recently ruled that the detention center was not a licensed child care facility and is improperly housing an estimated 1,900 mothers and their children, valid claims to asylum under American laws, are still being threatened. Without legal representation, these immigrants’ due process rights are often violated and both the women and children, in the facility, face the possibility of deportation.


Dilley, Texas is one of our newest site additions to the Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break Program. This project is an inter-institutional collaboration on social justice between CARA (CLINIC, AILA, RAICES, and AIC). These organizations joined forces in response to ICE’s significant expansion of family detention, and to address a growing need, recruitment teams travel to Dilley every week and participate in mandatory on-the-ground training sessions. At present, this work site includes client intakes, credible fear and reasonable fear preparations, credible and reasonable fear representations, bond hearing representation, and bond hearing presentation.

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Our students need your support to continue serving. As you consider your giving options for the year, please consider helping us serve our underrepresented communities!