The AWOL Program provides an opportunity for USD students to engage in academic community service-learning during academic breaks. In addition to spending several weeks learning about social issues they will experience during their service-learning trip, each student is challenged to do something in their home communities when they return. Yankton native Allison Struck, a USD junior and chair of the executive board, discussed about how important service-learning is to student development. She also attended a summer conference to learn more about engaging student leaders in alternative break programs.

"It was beneficial to learn from the nation’s best alternative break coordinators, and I'm excited that USD has chosen to create a student-led executive board," Struck said. “I have enjoyed working with everyone, and the executive board members have accomplished a lot in a short time. I'm looking forward to working with them throughout the year."

The CAE has offered AWOL trips since 2004, involving students as site leaders on the trips since 2005. The transition to the student executive board will allow more students to have leadership opportunities within the program. Student leaders will work with CAE staff fulfilling various tasks to enhance and expand the program, including recruitment and fundraising, student orientation, planning opportunities and leading reflection sessions. "We hope to continue to expand the AWOL program, offering the opportunity to more students, thus increasing awareness about pressing social issues and inspiring action to counter those issues," stated Jacquie Lonning, coordinator of academic engagement at The U, who serves as an adviser to the AWOL Program. "We've been thrilled with the enhancement the student leaders have provided to the program so far, and we are excited to see the advancements their enthusiasm will bring to include and involve their peers." In addition to Struck, students who will serve on the inaugural executive board are junior Nyah Vanterpool from Huron, S.D., director of recruitment; senior Travis Krogman of White River, S.D., director of fundraising; senior Donielle Gustafson from Pierre, S.D., director of group development; and senior Jane Gullickson of Brandon, S.D., director of public relations. Site leaders for the 2009 AWOL break trips include Struck, sophomore Angela Helseth of Brandon, S.D.; and junior Corrie Hendricks of Sioux City, Iowa. AWOL trips planned for 2009 include Agua Prieta, Mexico; Eagle Butte, S.D.; San Francisco, Calif.; and Staten Island, N.Y.

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