Mar 26, 2014

USD AWOL students spend Spring Break in service

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Fifteen University of South Dakota students spent spring break in three different locations learning about social issues and serving in communities. The trips were planned and coordinated by student site leaders in the Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning (AWOL) student organization. AWOL encourages active citizenship through immersing students in educational service-learning experiences, exposing them to diverse social issues, and encouraging students to apply the wisdom gained through these experiences to their daily lives.

One AWOL group spent their week in Denver, Colo. working with a wide variety of community and non-profit organizations in the areas of sustainability and urban agriculture, including Denver Urban Gardens, Groundwork Denver, Greenleaf, Produce Denver, Sprout City Farms and Urbiculture. Participants Emily Roberson of Tyndall, S.D. (Site Leader), Joslynn Clauson and Carly Holmstrom, both of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Learning Partner Lucia Carlson of Rio Rico, Ariz., got dirty while performing hands-on projects in the areas of urban agriculture, conservation, and sustainability.

Site Leader Erica Kuharski of Rapid City, S.D., Adam Fenton of Temecula, Calif., Chelsea Gilbertson of Vermillion, Jessica Ward of Remsen, Iowa, Veronica Claussen of Jefferson, S.D. and Learning Partner Lauren Schuur, coordinator of Prevention Services with the USD Student Counseling Center, traveled to Silver Springs, Fla., to learn about Wildlife Protection and Conservation, working through the organization Forest Animal Rescue, a lifetime care sanctuary for no-releasable wild animals. The rescued animals were abused or neglected and range from big cats to bears, wolves, primates, bats and more. At Forest Animal Rescue these animals have space and peace that they need to heal and thrive. AWOL participants did not work directly with the animals, but they performed infrastructure improvement projects that helped to improve the grounds and sustain the health and well-being of the animals indirectly.    

Additionally, another AWOL group spent spring break in the Rosebud Native American Reservation in South Dakota, volunteering with several agencies to examine poverty on the Reservation. Participants worked with Habitat for Humanity in Mission, S.D., painting rooms and cleaning a house that would eventually be sold to a family in need. The group also worked with preschool children at the Mission and Rosebud Head Start program, with elderly and long-term care for patients with diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s at the White River Healthcare Center, and met with Rosebud Ambulatory Service to learn more about the primary health issues in the area.

Trip participants included: Site Leader Nate Vinzant of Sioux Falls, Logan Bullard of St. Albans, Vt., Andrew Koch of Sioux Falls, Jamie Rykhus of Oak Grove, Minn., Lauren Leichtnam of Vermillion, Emily Pauli of Milbank, S.D., Desiree Su of Sioux City, Iowa, and Learning Partner Sara Boyum of West Point, Neb.

About the AWOL Program

Housed in the Center for Academic 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

About The Center for Academic & Global Engagement

USD’s Center for Academic & Global Engagement was created as a central point of contact for students to find experiential learning information, including information about service-learning, undergraduate research, study abroad and off-campus academic experiences.  The office is also a place where faculty can receive support for integrating service-learning and other experiential activities into their courses.  Finally, the CAGE acts as a general volunteer clearinghouse for Vermillion and the surrounding area.  For information on upcoming events, e-mail the CAGE at or visit

About The University of South Dakota
Founded in 1862, The University of South Dakota is designated as the only public liberal arts university in the state and is home to a comprehensive College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, the state's only School of Law, School of Medicine, the accredited Beacom School of Business and the College of Fine Arts. USD has an enrollment of more than 10,000 students taught by more than 400 faculty members. More information is available at

This material is available in an alternate format upon request. Please contact University Relations at 605-677-5759. If you are a person with a disability and need a special accommodation to fully participate in any university activity or event, please contact Disability Services at 605-677-6389 as soon as possible, but no later than 48 hours before the event, so that appropriate arrangements may be made.


Peter Carrels
The University of South Dakota
(605) 216-1233
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