The 2017-2018 academic year was incredible! We want to highlight some of the service and memories from our Alternative Breaks. Keep reading to see some of the impact that AWOL had on students, communities, and USD!

Winter Alternative Breaks:

Nashville (Urban Poverty): We had the opportunity to work with several community organizations who worked with the homeless population and provided them access to basic necessities like food, shelter, and community services.  While there, we were also fortunate enough to be able to interact with the community we were serving and gain a greater understanding of the issues the homeless population in Nashville faces. We met incredible people and helped to provide meals to hundreds of families and individuals.  This trip was truly an amazing experience!

New Orleans (Conservation):  Erika Clark and Christian Pollema led nine of USD’s finest to New Orleans, LA. Alongside Common Ground Relief and students from Ohio State and Michigan State University, we planted nearly 900 trees in Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, which are receding at an average rate of one football field-size piece of land every hour. We were also able to help with various other efforts toward preserving Louisiana’s abundant ecosystems, serving at Common Ground’s nursery, Montegut’s Tribal Center, Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge, and at Lake Maurepas with the Lake Ponchartrain Basin Foundation. 

Dallas (Health): While in Dallas we worked with so many amazing organizations. The Family Place was our first stop where we helped process Christmas items that were donated to families that have been victims of domestic violence and abuse. Then we went to the Texas Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital where we made fake snow with the children. We also went to two homeless shelters, The Bridge and Dallas LIFE. We served popcorn, pop, and candy canes while visiting with the residents at The Bridge and served at meal and played in the children’s center at Dallas LIFE. We were also fortunate to work with some animals while in Dallas as well. We stopped by the Dallas Animal Shelter and Adoption Center to help make dog toys out of sheets and socialize with the animals. We got to visit the Autism Treatment Center where we played games, read books, and baked treats for the children. Our final stop was Hospice Select where we played bingo, decorated Christmas ornaments and cookies, and visited with the residents of a local Dallas nursing home. Overall, the experience was humbling and we got to experience so many people with diverse backgrounds

Upcoming Spring and Summer Alternative Breaks:

Sawtooth Mountain Range (Conservation): The second week of May, a group of USD students will travel to Idaho’s beautiful Sawtooth Mountain Range to do conservation work with the National Parks Service. We will be hiking a majority of the trip, helping to prevent erosion and doing brush work. We will also help with fencing and fixing bridges in the area. We will camp the whole week long, and our group is so excited to learn more about the area, to learn about conservation issues, and to take in the rugged beauty of Sawtooth Range.

Alternative Weekends:

Sioux City: A group of us went to Sioux City’s Community Action Agency where we painted, did yard work, and had a blast! The Community Action Agency is a non-profit organization that helps with different programs, such as the Head Start program. Even though we were not doing hands-on work with the people that the agency assists, we were helping a great organization with behind-the-scenes work that needs to be done, even though it may not be the most glamorous.