VERMILLION, S.D. -- Five students from the University of South Dakota traveled to Fort Thompson, S.D., recently to work with Dacotah Tipis Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit housing organization on the Crow Creek Reservation. The students assisted in construction projects to complete the Dacotah Tipis Volunteer Center, which will house groups who plan to volunteer with the organization. In addition to the service component, the students learned about the challenges residents of the Crow Creek Reservation face with finding affordable housing.
The service-learning project took place Oct. 17-19 through the Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning (AWOL) program. AWOL designs Alternative Weekend experiences to provide students with short-term service-learning opportunities that focus on important local and regional issues. Each month a different Alternative Weekend takes place, providing an outlet for students to explore social issues relevant to the region and build a closer connection with the local community.
Like other AWOL events, Alternative Weekends are entirely student-led. Students participating in October were Megan Bartels of Yankton, S.D.; Sidney Heisler of Sioux Falls, S.D.; Alexa Moeller of Watertown, S.D.; Alex Plendl of Earling, Iowa; and the site leader for the event was MacKenzie Huber of Vermillion, S.D.
Dacotah Tipis Habitat for Humanity mission statement is “alleviate poverty housing on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation by recruiting Habitat partner families, help them build their homes, and provide long-term support thereby creating responsible homeowners within the community.” Their vision is “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” Habitat for Humanity invites people from all walks of life to work together in partnership to help build houses with families in need. Habitat has built or rehabilitated more than 300,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1.5 million people in 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.
About the AWOL Program
Housed in the Center for Academic and Global Engagement, AWOL offers students the opportunity to combine community service with education during academic breaks. The AWOL program is in the eighth year on campus and the program has continued to grow. Prior to departure, students participate in six weeks of educational training. By utilizing experiences and education, AWOL enables students to become active citizens, whose community becomes a priority in their everyday life, and provides them with avenues for continued community involvement and learning. More information is available at www.usd.edu/engage/service-learning/awol-alternative-breaks.cfm.