USD’s Alternative Weekend of off-campus Learning (AWOL) and Lost and Found organizations collaborated to volunteer at Sioux Falls’ Foster Closet.
Michaela Ahrenholtz, the president of the Lost and Found organization at USD, said the Lost and Found organization aims to bring awareness to mental health and suicide prevention among college students.
“Foster Closet is the only closet in the state of South Dakota that provides clothing and other supplies for children in the foster care system,” Ahrenholtz said.
Kim Albracht, faculty advisor to AWOL, helps guide the AWOL organization.
“AWOL is a student led organization. The site leaders are the ones that do all the planning and selection, who they’re going to work with, the community partner and what their education is going to be,” Albracht said.
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After volunteering for four hours at Foster Closet, the 11 USD students from AWOL and Lost and Found attended a health professionals education panel at Augustana University to learn more about mental health issues in South Dakota and how they can be better advocates, Albracht said.
“The AWOL alternative weekend was extremely positive and will hopefully lead to their further involvement in AWOL and Lost & Found. AWOL is an amazing organization and I am so glad that AWOL and Lost & Found could work together to make this amazing day of service,” Ahrenholtz said.
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“During that panel, we learned about the different resources in South Dakota, the challenges that surround mental health due to stigma, and how mental health has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ahrenholtz said.
Unlike from previous years, AWOL is primarily staying local.
“Throughout last semester and this semester, students have been able to work in different capacities, some virtual opportunities and some on-site opportunities, but we’ve been to places here in Vermillion as well as Yankton and Sioux City,” Albracht said.
Albracht also said along with volunteer work, there is always a component to education on alternative breaks.
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AWOL does have plans for this coming summer.
“This summer, one group will be focusing on conservation in South Dakota, and the other group will be focusing on rural resilience within native communities within the region,” Albracht said.