Read about this semester's trips for Spring Breakout 2013

6 groups of students will participate in civic engagement trips across the country investigating

Breakout trips ran during spring recess (March 16th - 24th).

Participant applications were due on Wednesday, February 13.  Trip proposal and leader applications for Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 will open in the first week of April 2013.

Read about Breakout.


Read an article about the Spring 2013 trips.


Spring 2013 trip descriptions:

Art & Social Change: The Art of Creative Empowerment, Philadelphia, PA ($250)

Art and Social Change in Philadelphia blog and @BreakoutMurals

How can art instigate social change? How does public art shape and illustrate the history and values of urban populations, including at-risk populations like the mentally ill, incarcerated, and minorities? Why does Philadelphia have such a robust artistic community and tradition? We will travel to Philadelphia—the mural capital of the world—to explore Philadelphia’s artistic community and its preeminent Mural Arts Program that has created thousands of murals around the city in the last 30 years. We will tour mural and public art sites, speak to directors of the Mural Arts Program, and meet with city planning officials to better understand the unique economic and urban planning policies that have encouraged mural making and arts programming in Philadelphia. Additionally, we will immerse ourselves in the city’s artistic community by visiting studios of local artists and mural painters. Hopefully, we will even contribute to a mural ourselves!

During this week, we will examine why the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has been so successful, and apply these findings toward understanding why a similar initiative—the Trenton Mural Arts Project—has stagnated. Of course, we will take time to sample Philly cheesesteaks and explore Philadelphia’s historical and cultural attractions. During the trip, we plan to shoot and produce a short documentary film chronicling our experience, and share the final product with the Princeton community when we return. We are looking for energetic, enthusiastic, and creative participants with diverse academic interests. Experience in art is helpful but not necessary; we welcome any applicants who are interested in learning more about public art and its ability to empower communities, stimulate local economies, and rejuvenate the urban landscape.

Hunger and Homelessness: Discovering the Uneaten Potential, Washington DC ($250)

@Breakout DC

At Princeton, food unites us.  Study breaks, unlimited food at dining halls, the ubiquitous “Let’s talk about it over late meal!”... we’ve even got a “freefood” listserv. And wait, aren’t they called Eating Clubs? It can be easy to become desensitized to food waste on campus. Almost 40% of food produced in the United States is wasted. At the same time, almost 50 million Americanslive on food stamps, each of which cannot even purchase a McDonald’s Combo Meal. This paradox alarms us; while it’s easy to dismiss these issues as irrelevant or overwhelming, people on the streets of Washington, D.C. actually go hungry every day not because they are unmotivated, but due to a mismatch of resources. It can be hard as a citizen to reconcile the American notion of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” with the inherent difficulty of financial stability in an unstable economy--and we want to address this. We will engage with the problem of physical hunger and the indignity of homelessness and the roots of these issues. We also want to combat the general inaction and perceived lack of tools against this issue by highlighting the incredible work of organizations and individuals that have made an effort to address this in innovative, sustainable ways. Upon return to Princeton, we’ll analyze and implement a comprehensive food recovery policy for Princeton’s various dining services that will donate wasted dining hall food to local organizations. As academically motivated and socially conscious college students, we cannot stand idly by as we see both a problem and a solution. We hope you can join us!

Fracking: Moving Beyond the Rhetoric, Pittsburgh, PA ($250)

In recent decades, U.S. policymakers have increasingly emphasized the need for American energy independence in order to reduce reliance upon foreign oil from unstable nations. However, the depletion of America's traditional, more easily accessible oil reserves necessitates the use of a cheaper alternative energy source. The practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, addresses this need by allowing oil service companies to tap into America's abundant natural gas reserves. For instance, the U.S. Energy Information Agency estimates that the Marcellus Shale surrounding Pennsylvannia contains 141 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. However, fracking has attracted controversy from opponents who assert that the process releases contaminants into the environment that contribute to pollution and are detrimental human health. 

Join us in Pittsburgh as we investigate the economic, environmental, and political impact of fracking in the first major American city to ban the practice. During the trip, we will explore the many facets of the fracking controversy by meeting with oilfield service companies that drill for natural gas, local officials who impose fracking regulations, environmental agencies that test for ground water contamination, local workers who depend upon jobs in the natural gas industry, researchers who investigate the science and the geopolitical consequences of fracking, and other groups that have a stake in the debate. Participants will subsequently impart their multifaceted understanding of fracking to K12 students by teaching them environmental science and energy policy. Participants will also engage in projects to ecologically restore parks and rivers in Pittsburgh. Ultimately, we will gain experience navigating controversial scientific issues that balance economic prosperity and national security against risks to environmental and human health. Students from all disciplines are highly encouraged to apply. 

Education Entrepreneurship: Innovative Learning, Boston Area ($250)  @BostonBreakout

What kind of world will our kids grow up in? The future of our nation lies in the education of tomorrow’s leaders, and our current system of public K-12 education is failing to provide each child with the tools they need to succeed. Yet what some see as a broken system, entrepreneurs view as an opportunity. Investments in education-technology companies have tripled in the past decade, topping over $450 million in 2012. In order to understand the evolving role of technology in the K-12 public education system, we will be spending a week in Boston, MA to glimpse the present and future of technology-based solutions to public education reform.

Boston is the oldest public school district in America, founded in 1647, and home to the nation’s first ever public school. Currently, the district manages a budget of $800 million and oversees over 130 schools serving 60,000 students. The metropolitan area is home to some of the nation’s highest achieving public secondary schools but also several of its most underprivileged communities. At the same time, coexisting in Boston is a vibrant entrepreneurial community, home to some of the brightest and most inspirational innovators of the world, individuals and organizations changing the ways we communicate, socialize, organize our homes, conduct business, and perhaps even the way we learn.

On this trip, we will hear from key players viewing public education reform from contrasting angles, including the Department of Education and teachers’ union, revolutionary public charter schools beating the odds with their passion for student success, venture philanthropists with a laser-focus on education innovation, startups aspiring to disrupt the current landscape, and passionate teachers, leaders, and advocates of change. Where does technology and entrepreneurship fit into the puzzle of educating today’s students? How do key players interact in this landscape, and how can they better cooperate and communicate with each other? What are the costs and drivers of technological change, and how effective are these improvements? And how will we help every child achieve a great education?

Sioux Nation: Preserving Oglala Heritage Stories, Pine Ridge, SD (Fee TBD)

“A people without a history is like the wind over buffalo grass.” – a Sioux saying.


How does cultural awareness enrich peoples’ lives, and what does the loss of this knowledge do to a society? Why is it important to know where we came from and to record our life stories for future generations? We will explore these questions at the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux Reservation in South Dakota – a community that has recently prioritized heritage preservation programs as a means of tackling current issues. Pine Ridge is the poorest reservation in the United States, and faces acute economic and domestic challenges. The average age of fluent Lakota speakers is 65, which is just a reflection of the culture gap between generations. By collaborating with retired elders and students ranging from elementary to high school to record heritage stories, we will assist in bridging this gap and empowering young people with the legacy of their ancestors. We will also provide college application mentorship to students in the local high school and brainstorm ways to maintain identity in college and outside of the Sioux community. This trip will focus on building relationships with community members and reflecting on the values of identity.

Art and Music Education: The Sound of Community Development, Princeton/Trenton NJ (Fee TBD)

When the educational budget is tight, which programs should be kept and which should be cut? Apart from the government, what might the role of everyday citizens be in improving the educational environment of their community?

This trip focuses on how the development of communities in Princeton’s backyard, such as the newly consolidated Princeton Town and Trenton, is affected by the allocation of educational resources. The controversial state of art and music education will be our starting point to understand the different interests of the government (including educational boards), schools (such as the Invincible Charter School in Camden), and community programs (such as MIMA Music and the Trenton Cultural Resources Network) that coordinate and compete with each other. The people we will talk to will range from local policymakers to individual parents, art and music teachers to community volunteers.

This breakout trip is a pilot for Princeton to establish a sustainable community service relationship with its own neighborhood. Participants will play an important part in improving this initiative.