With assistance from USD's Student Action Office, the students participated in three Alternative Spring Break (ASB) projects in the communities of Little Rock, AK, Philadelphia, PA, and Austin, TX.
Nine USD students spent the week in Philadelphia with agencies associated with Philadelphia FIGHT, an organization dedicated to primary care, advocacy and consumer education and awareness of HIV/AIDS. Students from USD helped with several tasks, including sorting donations for the organization as well as assisting with a quality assurance project. The group also learned about health training for people living with HIV/AIDS.
"This was a true to life experience from an educational, social, medical and political standpoint," admitted Sarah Fish, a junior from Sioux City, IA. "It gave us the tools to bring awareness back to South Dakotans on how to educate themselves and become advocates for those living with this disease."
In addition to Fish, the Philadelphia trip included USD students Katie Blaalid of Yankton; Angela Brownfield from Sioux Center, IA; Mandy Ellefson for Garretson; Donielle Gustafson from Pierre; Victor Kottwitz of Rapid City; Amanda Sedlacek of Scotland; and Matt Whitmore from Huron. The student site leader was Garett Howardson of Clark, and the students were accompanied by Student Action Coordinator Jacquie Lonning.
Meanwhile, eight students traveled to Little Rock where their focus was working with people with physical and developmental disabilities. During the week, the group built a patio at Our House, a working homeless shelter; maintained and landscaped the grounds at Camp Aldersgate, a summer camp for children with disabilities; and participated in classes and toured the Conway Development Center, a care facility for people with severe mental and physical disabilities.
Students in Little Rock for the week included Jamie Bender of Humphrey, NE; Summer Chambers of Sioux Falls; Laura Clausen from Gettysburg; Hillarie Maddox of Rapid City; Andrea Rollins of Akron, IA; Joni Stockland of Wakonda; and Stacy Ziegler of Pierre. Brittany Seiler from McIntosh was the student site leader and the group was accompanied by Cody Siewert, Greek Life coordinator in the Student Activities Center.
While in Austin, eight students from USD spent their week with five organizations devoted to environmental and immigration issues. In addition to working in two different community gardens at the Sustainable Food Center, an organization responsible for bringing food security to Texans, the group from USD also spent time at Casa Marianella, a shelter for new immigrants to the United States.
"I was able to get a good grasp of how strong a community can be," explained Dan Cwach, a sophomore from Yankton. "Everyone in Austin is working towards stability and if a town that big can handle it, it should inspire a lot of smaller communities to do the same."
In addition to Cwach, ASB students included Joseph Cooch from Spearfish; Adam Hengen from Rapid City; Drew Price of Omaha, NE; Samerawit Zeleke of Sioux Falls; and Suzannah Bryan and Chelsie Goetz of Hartington, NE.
Student site leader was Melissa Noland of Sioux Falls, and Alex Berke, AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) also attended on behalf of USD.