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.