VERMILLION, S.D. -- Thirty-six students along with five faculty and staff members from The University of South Dakota participated in service-learning opportunities throughout the United State during spring break.
Through the Center for Academic Engagement’s (CAE) Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning (AWOL) Program, students and staff traveled to Eagle Butte, S.D., East St. Louis, Ill., Staten Island, N.Y., and San Francisco, Calif., where they were exposed to diverse situations, people and perspectives.
Nine students traveled to Eagle Butte where they delivered food and supplies to the Cheyenne River Youth Project. More than 1,000 items, from canned foods to prom dresses, were donated during drives at Yankton High School, Yankton Middle School and a church in Nebraska.
USD students that traveled to Eagle Butte included: Andrea Fee and Jay Schander of Sioux Falls, S.D., Anne Grady of LeMars, Iowa, Brandi Hansen of Marcus, Iowa, Hillarie Maddox of Rapid City, S.D., Shiloh McGruder of Highmore, S.D., Abigail Nedved of Pocahontas, Iowa, Erin Zink of Wayne, Neb., and Allison Struck, student site leader from Yankton, S.D., who commented, "we were the first service group from South Dakota to volunteer with the Cheyenne River Youth Project, and they were really excited when we arrived and started working." Liane Grayson, assistant professor of communications disorders at USD, also volunteered for the trip.
Stopping first to work with two organizations in Kansas City, Mo., a team of students from The U served breakfast to the homeless, and cleaned and painted a house for a mentally disabled adult before spending the remainder of their time in East St. Louis, Ill. While in East St. Louis, students worked with AmeriCorps representatives in elementary schools and with homeless organizations and after school programs. They also received tours from leaders in the African-American civil rights movement.
"It made me realize how much we need to try to solve domestic issues," said Alexa Walker, a first-year student from Vermillion. "I also learned about how much of an effect a child's environment has on their education."
In addition to Walker, participants included: Justine Butler of Yankton, S.D., Ashley Coleman from Westminster, Calif., Jordan Feist from Sioux Falls, S.D., Travis Snyders of Larchwood, Iowa, Alana Wolken of Groton, S.D., Meschack Kiplagat of Nairobe, Kenya, Ashley Baumann and student site leader Jane Gullickson of Brandon, S.D., and Jacquie Lonning, coordinator of academic engagement.
Volunteers traveling to Staten Island participated in a variety of hands-on activities, including cleaning and painting a housing unit for homeless families, assisting low-income clients in a food pantry, cooking meals in a drop-in center, and serving lunch at a soup kitchen through Project Hospitality.
In addition, the group also listened to firsthand accounts of homelessness and HIV/AIDS through two seminars during the week. Nightly group reflections and personal interactions with Project Hospitality's staff and clients allowed the group to better understand the problems and issues faced by those they were working with.
"I'm amazed at what we learned, what we saw, who we met and every single experience because it was inspiring and incredible," said sophomore Angela Helseth, student site leader from Brandon, S.D.
In addition to Helseth, students traveling to Staten Island were Jessie Atkinson of Sioux City, Iowa, Mason Boutros of Sioux Falls, S.D., Courtney Buechler of Centerville, S.D., Lydia Graslie of Rapid City, S.D., Kendra Heer of Sioux Falls, S.D., Derek Klatt of Watertown, S.D., Margaret Suerth of Buffalo, Minn., Stacy Weber of Bridgewater, S.D., and Tina Shantz, AmeriCorps VISTA member in the Center for Academic Engagement.
Ten students from The U and two faculty members participated in a week of service in San Francisco during spring break. The group worked with five different organizations, including R.O.C.K. (Real Options for City Kids), Tenderloin Health, Bay Area Rescue Mission, Project Open Hand and the San Francisco Food Bank. From packaging rice to helping eighth graders with their math homework, the participants saw the organizations from many angles, and even began to understand how various organizations work together throughout a community.
Participants from USD included Holly Anderton of Alcester, S.D., Dominique Boudreau from Yankton, S.D., Marcus Brooks of Sioux Falls, S.D., Alexandrea Brummer of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Bailey Davis from Green Bay, Wis., Emily Koester of Laurel, Neb., Zach Drane from Amana, Iowa, Iseley Marshall from Papillion, Neb., Jordan McQuillen of Aberdeen, S.D., student site leader Corrie Hendricks, Sioux City, Iowa, Roger Schieferecke, graduate assistant, Center for Academic Engagement, and Colleen Zea, Academic Advising.