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AWOL students at USD participate in local service-learning projects

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Eleven incoming freshmen attended the University of South Dakota’s annual Serve & Learn retreat last week sponsored by the AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-campus Learning) student organization and the Center for Academic and Global Engagement. The students engaged in nearly a dozen service-learning projects throughout the week to benefit Vermillion and Yankton. Additionally, the students were able to move into the residence halls early, learn about community programs around the region, and get acquainted with campus staff and resources.

Like other AWOL events, Serve & Learn is entirely student-led, and 12 experienced AWOL students volunteered their time as site leaders throughout the week, leading the freshmen in service-related programming daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Students participating were Jessalyn Bannister of Lime Springs, Iowa; Regan Enos of Rapid City, S.D.; Justine Fischer of Hartington, Neb.; Morgan Hartenstein of Belleville, Ill.; Katlyn Holtrop of Sheldon, Iowa; Hailey Jenner of Tea, S.D.; Marissa O’Donnell of Hampton, Iowa; Elizabeth Reed of Spearfish, S.D.; Marissa Reis of Hartley, Iowa; Rachel Tverberg of Sioux Falls, S.D.; and, Joshua Wiley of Storm Lake, Iowa.

The service learning projects were completed in partnership with Vermillion Areas Arts Council, Head Start, Vermillion Care Center, Center for Children and Families, Boys and Girls Club of Yankton, Heartland Humane Society, Avera Yankton Care Center, and the Backpack Program Project. In all, USD students dedicated more than 150 volunteer hours to community organizations while learning firsthand about the social issues that affect the community and region.

“Every single student was fully engaged in the car washing projects – heard lots of laughter, saw smiles,” said Carmen Stewart, the director of Head Start And. “And, as a side note, I don’t think our cars have been this clean since we got them brand new.” Members of the Vermillion Area Arts Council appreciated the service as well, sharing on their social media page, “Fantastic program, lovely kids, and stupendous work!”


Housed in the Center for Academic Engagement and Global Engagement, AWOL (Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning) offers students the opportunity to combine community service with education during academic breaks. 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.


USD’s Center for Academic & Global Engagement (CAGE) gives students the chance to gain real-world experience and knowledge and connect with their community and the larger world. CAGE offers academically based opportunities that create skills employers and graduate schools seek. Among them: off-campus service-learning programs, studying abroad, student exchange, undergraduate research and nationally competitive awards and fellowships. CAGE also provides support to international students with cultural and academic adjustments as well as immigration concerns.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 78 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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.


Hanna DeLange
USD News