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A green cleanup: Alternative Spring Break students volunteer for a cause during vacation

A green cleanup: Alternative Spring Break students volunteer for a cause during vacation

While most people were spending their spring break relaxing, putting off homework and hanging out with friends and family, a group of 28 students and two staff members traveled to the Everglades National Park in Florida, volunteering their time to clean up the park.

Since 2009, the Alternative Spring Break organization has been traveling around the United States helping out with different causes. Trips have included Louisiana, Texas and Tennessee.  This was the group’s first year in Florida.

Many students who went on the trip decided to go because it was an inexpensive trip to bond with old friends and make new ones while helping out within a community.

“The trip was a nice balance between volunteering and socializing with friends,” said Katie Woodford, the resident assistant for the Leadership for Life wing in Lincoln Residence Hall. “It was awesome to bond through volunteering with my peers.”

The group of students and staff departed from UIS on March 9 and returned March 17.  Twenty-four hours were spent driving from Springfield to the park. A total of 48 hours was spent within a van for the round trip.

Florida welcomed them with a week of beautiful weather. The sun was shining for a majority of the trip, and the temperature there was between a comfortable 70 and 80 degrees.

While on the week-long trip, students helped to clear trails and campsites by chopping down invasive plants and cleaning up garbage. “While clearing an area on the third day, over 20 garbage bags were filled with trash,” Woodford said.

On top of cleaning the park, students were given the chance to learn about different invasive plant species from the workers within the park. Not only were they exposed to new plant species, but they were also exposed to many different animal species and got up close and personal with some alligators.

“My favorite memory would be meeting Bob and Maryland. They are in their 80s and spend half of their year doing exactly what we did over the course of the week,” said Michael Rosenberger, sophomore chemistry major.

One evening the group went on a trip to Key Largo, Florida. They spent an evening on the beach watching the sunset, eating food and dancing to old school songs.

“Overall, it was a really fun trip. I enjoy volunteering, and this was a chance for me to learn a lot of different things,” said Danielle Schulthes, freshman at UIS. “It was an experience to try new things and help out others.”

Over the duration of the trip the group stayed at the Everglades hostel in Florida City, Fla. Most members slept on bunk beds, while others slept in tents in the backyard surrounded by a waterfall, tree house, garden and gazebo.

If you are interested in participating in Alternative Spring Break, contact volunteer@uis.edu with further questions.

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