Another year has gone too fast, and with the change in seasons also comes a change in the AWOL Executive Board. I am so sad to see many of the previous executive board members move on to bigger and better things, but on behalf of myself and the rest of the new executive board, we are thrilled and humbled for the opportunity to lead such a great organization to new heights.

To the old board members, thank you. Thank you for all your hard work in making AWOL thrive. Thank you for so humbly serving the Vermillion, USD, and so many other communities. And thank you for leaving a legacy of servant leadership and active citizenship that will forever exemplify the true meaning of AWOL. I wish you well in your endeavors whether it be to a graduate school, traveling abroad, jumping into a big-kid job, or just taking time to find out what life means. I know that the values, life-skills, and active citizenship AWOL has instilled in all of us will push your lives to great heights and successes. I will leave you with one last thought, in the words of Sara Boyum Hento and Andrew Koch #GoAWOLGoAWOLGoAWOL.

To kick things off, it is my pleasure to introduce the executive board for 2015-2016.

KirstyName: Kirsty Longley
Major: Medical Biology
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD
Position on board: President
Why you love AWOL: I fell in love with AWOL because I found something incredibly satisfying about being in an organization that acts so consistently with my personal principles. Being part of AWOL gives me a chance to say that I changed something in the world, in the lives of others, and in my community. AWOL gives meaning to my life beyond simply looking after myself and gives me the opportunity to learn about people, cooperation, compassion, and also about myself. If you would have asked me to define “active citizenship” and “servant leadership” 3 years ago, I probably just would have looked at you you funny; but now these are qualities and ideals that I live out in my everyday life. AWOL has forever changed the way I look at the world, and inspired me to get out of the oblivion I live in to change one life and community at a time.
Past AWOL experience: Director of Alternative Service events from 2013-2015, alternative Weekend Spring 2015 Rosebud, SD, alternative Weekend Fall 2013 Omaha, NE, Serve-and-Learn Fall 2014 Site Leader, MLK Jr Day of Service 2014, MLK Jr Day of Service 2015, and last but not least 9/11/14 Day of Service.

AndrewName: Andrew Koch
Major: Medical Biology
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD
Position on board: Vice President
Why I love AWOL: I love AWOL because it gives students the opportunity to learn about a culture or social issue that they would have never been able to otherwise encounter. These opportunities provide a powerful sense of the impact a determined individual can have on a community, and help students to learn what it is they truly want to spend their lives doing. My experiences serving others through AWOL have been some of the most formative and fulfilling experiences of my undergraduate career, and they have helped to guide my aspirations to center on helping those most in need.
Past AWOL experience: My first AWOL trip was to Mission SD, located on the Rosebud Reservation, over spring break of 2014. Since then, I have been involved with various service projects in and around Vermillion, as well as leading a trip to Eagle Butte, SD, on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation over spring break of 2015.

JacobName: Jacob Munger
Major: Health Sciences
Hometown: Larchwood, IA
Position on board: Director of Community Events
Why you love AWOL: AWOL is a fantastic opportunity to help others, better yourself, and feel like you are making a difference in someones life. AWOL develops an individual as a leader, as well instills qualities that simply make you a better person. AWOL is a great resource to help educate oneself through service learning and targets social issues that are important to society. Developing and uniting active citizens is one of my favorite parts of AWOL, and while doing so we have turned into a great big family.
Past AWOL experience​: Co-Director of Marketing and Recruitment for 2014-2015, two winter break trips to New Orleans, Serve-and-Learn Fall 2014 Site Leader, MLK Jr Day of Service 2014, MLK Jr Day of Service 2015, and last but not least 9/11/14 Day of Service.

GeralynName: Geralyn Palmer
Major: Medical Biology
Hometown: Sioux Falls, SD
Position on board: Secretary
Why you love AWOL: I love AWOL because I believe it gives USD students a chance to learn outside of the classroom and give back to the community. My experiences with AWOL have been nothing but positive, as AWOL has allowed me to meet new people and encounter new places, while exploring a current social issue firsthand. AWOL has taught me a lot about what it means to be an active citizen and how I can make a difference in our society through service learning. I am excited for this upcoming year and cannot wait to see AWOL grow!
Past AWOL experience​: Kansas City weekend 2014, Houston TX co-site leader 2015, Rosebud Reservation alternative weekend 2015, MLK Day of Service 2015.

KatieName: Katie Loutsch
Major: Medical Biology
Hometown: Milbank, SD
Position on board: Director of Finance and Fundraising
Why you love AWOL: AWOL has given me so many opportunities to expand my horizons.  I have made new friends, traveled to new places, and learned more about myself and others through service-learning.  Every time I walk away from a trip, I have learned something new about a social issue and have grown as an active citizen in my community.
Past AWOL experience: Winter Break 2014 Participant Chicago, IL, alternative weekend Fall 2013 Omaha, NE, alternative Weekend Spring 2014 Sioux Falls, SD, Serve-and-Learn Fall 2014 Co-Site Leader, MLK Jr Day of Service 2014 Participant, MLK Jr Day of Service 2015 Site Leader, and Spring Break 2015 Site Leader Sauk Centre, MN.

The structure of the executive board is different from years passed, but I have no doubt that the determination and integrity of the new executive board members and site leaders will guide AWOL to new and exciting successes. Jacob hit the nail on the head when he described AWOL as a big family, and I can’t wait to see all of the service we can accomplish this next year. So, let the planning begin and #GoAWOL.

Kirsty Longley