Serve and Learn 2016!


AWOL is excited to announce that we will be hosting our annual Serve and Learn from Tuesday, August 16th through Friday, August 19th for incoming Freshman interested in service-learning! This is a great opportunity to learn about Vermillion, move in early, and meet other incoming Freshman along with current AWOL members. The cost is only $50 for four fun-filled days of service learning and engaging with the Vermillion community. If you are interested, please look over and fill out the application below. Spots are limited!

Please email us at if you have any questions, we look forward to hearing from you!

April Alternative Weekend


Our April alternative weekend is quickly approaching! This April, we will be providing service to the Omaha community by working with the Heartland Family Service. Join us Friday, April 22nd through Saturday, April 23rd as we build a community garden with individuals from the Youth Links Facility and Intergenerational Campus. Transportation, meals, snacks, and housing will be provided! We will be leaving Vermillion Friday afternoon, and returning Saturday evening. For more information, email us at! To sign up, click here!

For more information on Heartland Family Service, feel free to visit their website at

USD AWOL Takes on Spring Break

This past week, AWOL sent five trips to locations in the United States to participate in service learning. Our trips went to Baltimore, MD, Pine Ride, SD, Rosebud, SD, Moab, UT, and Sauk Centre, MN and performed 30 to 40 hours of service while learning about the community and social issue in each area. Here are some quick looks at the service performed!

Sauk Centre, Minnesota

  1. Participants had a blast at Camphill Village! They mucked out a pig barn (moving 3 tons of manure and old straw), harvested 87 pounds of parsnips, organized a garden shed, moved furniture into a newly renovated house, and sifted compost. It was a busy day! Then they participated in a relaxing night doing yoga class with some of the villagers. Their big project the last few days of their trip was gathering, splitting, and stacking firewood. Camphill is hoping for another mild winter next year, but if that’s not the case, they helped them gather more than enough firewood to heat their homes for the year.
  2. “We all had an awesome trip and are grateful for all of the new friends we made at Camphill Village!” – site leader Emily Pauli

Rosebud, South Dakota

  1. The Rosebud trip had a very exciting Wednesday learning how to chop wood with an axe, saws-all, wedge, sledgehammer, and a chainsaw! They started the day sorting the piles of wood into different sizes, and then they started chopping away. Mother Lauren, their host, taught them how to use these tools carefully and methodically. After a long day’s work, they had filled two trailers full of wood!
  2. “It was exciting to know that the wood we chopped can help 8 families stay warm.” – site leader Shamly Mackey

Moab, Utah

  1. A halfway update from Moab highlighted a drive across the Midwest, visiting two national parks, and helping build a quarter mile of a new mountain biking trail.
  2.  “We’re learning how to celebrate and appreciate our public lands with Grand County Trail Mix.” – site leader Emily Roberson

Baltimore, Maryland

  1. Baltimore started off their week of service working with Moveable Feast, an organization that packages and delivers food to over 600 individuals living with terminal illnesses and their families, and Paul’s Place, a non-profit that works to promote life and growth by battling common issues associated with poverty and unemployment in the Washington Village/Pigtown neighborhood. After packing food, sorting clothes, and playing with children, they ended the night meeting up with USD alumni and former AWOL president Shane Bryan, who now works as assistant director of the Students Outreach Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. 
  2. “He informed the group of what he’s been up to post-AWOL and gave them more detailed information about the history of Baltimore. In addition, he provided a first-hand account of what it is like being a resident of the area.” – site leader Kennidy Asche   

Pine Ridge, South Dakota

  1.  Tuesday the team spend their day at the Head Start in Pine Ridge. Each member of the trip got a different classroom and had the opportunity to interact with kids throughout the day. After they left, they headed back to the Pine Ridge Retreat Center to get ready for “kids’ time.” Four of the participants rode in the van to pick the kids up and saw the different neighborhoods that they live in. The team played kickball and board games until it was time for them to go home. For dinner they got to eat breakfast burritos made by a local lady in town, and attended an art show where local artists came and displayed their work.
  2. “This was a great opportunity to learn about the methods and the meaning behind some of the colors and images used in Lakota art.” – site leader Andrew Koch


March Alternative Weekend

AW 5flierOur March alternative weekend is quickly approaching! This coming Saturday, March 19th we will be heading to Yankton, SD to work with Habitat for Humanity. Service is from 9am to 5pm, and will include preparing a home for occupancy. No experience is required! Transportation, lunch and snacks will be provided! To sign up, click here! For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us at

Alternative Weekend Recap


On February 27th, seven USD students attended a weekend trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, working with the homeless and learning about poverty in the Sioux Falls community. We arrived in Sioux Falls around 9:30 at Kmart to help load up cribs/mattresses to take to the Teddy Bear Den. Once we arrived at the Teddy Bear Den we priced items, cleaned, played tag with children while the parents shopped, and unloaded the cribs/mattresses. We worked with the Teddy Bear Den for a couple hours and then had lunch at Falls Park. After lunch we went to the Bishop Dudley House. We were able to tour the Hospitality House, pick up trash, and make 50 thank you cards for volunteers. One thing we thought was really interesting was when we were picking up trash around the neighborhood, people from the surrounding businesses came out to say thank you! People were truly grateful for our help in making sure the community was kept clean.  Overall, the group thought the experience was great and really changed our perspectives on how fortunate we are.

February Alternative Weekend

AW #4 flier

We are so excited to announce that our first alternative weekend of the spring semester is ready to take on participants, and we want YOU! The alternative weekend is a day trip to Sioux Falls, SD on Saturday, February 27th. We will be working with the Teddy bear Den and the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, focusing on children and homelessness. To sign up, click here! For more information, email us at

AWOL Winter Break Orlando Recap

IMG_4660.JPGIMG_4800.JPGIMG_4777.JPGIMG_4924.JPGIMG_4959.JPGThis is my third year participating in an AWOL Winter Break trip and yet I am still in awe over how amazing of an experience I had on my trip. My group (10 participants, 2 site leaders, and 1 Graduate Assistant) volunteered at the most magical place on earth- Give Kids the World. Give Kids the World is a nonprofit “resort” where kids with terminal illnesses and their families get to spend a week in Florida, all expenses paid. (There are 144 villas on site where the families stay). During the day, the families have the opportunity to go to Disney World and Universal Studios and at night they hang out and play games at “birthday/Christmas/Halloween” parties. There are other events that take place throughout the week, including carousal, merry-go-round, and train rides, horse rides, all you can eat ice cream, Disney character visits, and magical star games- all of which 260 volunteers put on each day. It was so rewarding seeing each child and their family light up at the different events that we put on each day. All of the participants left Orlando with a new perspective, many new friendships, and a sense of joy. In addition to the memories made at GKTW, we also made memories around the city of Orlando. Feeding alligators, bargain shopping, playing games back at camp, and sharing funny stories during reflection made everyone dread going back home. The joy at GKTW is unexplainable and I think it’s safe to say it was tough leaving such a magical place.

-Katie Barnett, site leader.

AWOL Winter Break Dallas Recap

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Location: Dallas, TX

Site Leaders: Allison Kellen & Sage Kipfer 

Community Partners; City Square & Senior Care Health & Rehabilitation Center

City Square: We created hygiene and food packs, worked at a thrift store, and a food pantry. Homelessness is a huge issue in Dallas, and City Square strives to help them in every way possible. We did various jobs at the thrift store such as pricing clothes and putting them out to sell, and even helping haul in donations from trucks.The really awesome thing about the thrift store was that all of the profit made there went towards the food pantry. At the food pantry we helped people get their groceries. They have a pound limit because the food is free and it was our job to help load their shopping carts and weigh the cart for them! 

Senior Care Health & Rehabilitation Center: We were charge of leading actives with the residents in the afternoons and just spending time with them. Some of the activities were hot potato, coloring, painting, and many others!

What we took away from our trip to Dallas was to appreciate the small things in life. We could also all agree upon taking a new perspective on homeless people and ideally seeing the good in everyone. The Senior Care Center we volunteered at was very low income and not in the best of condition, but that did not stop us! Not only were the residents and workers happy we were there volunteering our time, but we were as well!

-Sage Kipfer, site leader.

AWOL Winter Break Springfield Recap


In Springfield, MO, we worked with several different community partners with various missions in order to get a feel for the needs of the community as a whole. Our theme centered around social disorganization. We worked with Habitat for Humanity, where we split our time between two new constructions and working at their ReStore. We also had the privilege of working with Harmony House, a domestic abuse shelter. Ozarks Food Harvest was another organization we partnered with to sort food donations and pack backpacks for children to eat over the weekend. Finally, we finished our week by organizing donations at Rare Breed, a drop in center for homeless youth. All of our experiences were humbling and eye-opening. We became closer as a group as we served and learned about issues by day and bonded by night. It was a fantastic trip with important issues, meaningful service, and dedicated people.

– Mackenzie Huber, site leader.

Spring Break Applications Now Open!


Our Spring Break applications are now open! We will be sending five trips March 5th – 12th, 2016. These trips will be focusing on Indigenous People, Environment, Health, and Education. For more information about these trips, and the potential trip locations, check out our Spring Break Trips 2016  tab!

To apply today, click here!

Applications will be closing January 13th, 2016. Please contact us at if you have any questions!

Applications are also open for our Summer Break MEDLIFE trip to Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Visit the Spring Break Trips 2016 for more information on this trip as well.

AWOL Participant Expectations

AWOL trips may involve more time and commitment than other service trips.  Participants are involved in mandatory pre-trip meetings to learn about the social issues they will encounter and conduct team building activities. Additionally all participants must understand that they are committing to a week of community service work, participation in learning opportunities related to the service issues, and daily group reflections.

The Application Process

The AWOL program has a competitive application process.  Participants are selected based upon information from the written application and interview.  When making trip member selections, consideration is given to creating a diverse mix of participants (academic year, discipline area, experience level, etc.).  Successful applicants must demonstrate a willingness to learn and a commitment to participate in all program requirements.