AWOL prepares for winter volunteering
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AWOL prepares for winter volunteering

Getting through finals and being able to see their families again aren’t the only things students are looking forward to this winter break.

Over the break, some students will be venturing out across the United States, and even to Guatemala, to happily surrender their time to communities that need the extra hands and hearts through Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning trips.

Kim Albracht, the assistant director of academic engagement, said it’s a great experience for students to volunteer through AWOL so they can be exposed to different social issues.

“(Students) are exploring parts of the U.S. addressing social issues and learning about those social issues,” she said.

Students who go on these trips will learn about the social issue that is being dealt with in their specific destination, and they’ll go in first-hand to help the community deal with the issue.

Site leader Em Hattouni, a senior psychology major, said she chose her destination, New Orleans, based on the social issue.

“The travel is a secondary thing, and the location is the cherry on top,” she said.

By gaining experience by working with social issues, students will become more comfortable with getting out into their own communities, Hattouni said.

“You bring what you learn out volunteering back into your community,” she said.

Site leader Katie Bollinger, a senior biology major, said one of her favorite parts of volunteering for AWOL is meeting new people.

“What I like most is I like to get to know more people and broaden my perspective,” she said.

Roughly 96 students will be broadening their perspectives this winter.  Trips include Missoula, New Orleans, Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago, Jacksonville, Kansas City and Guatemala.  There are about 10-12 volunteers per destination, and they’ll all be making an impact in each of their locations.

“The mission of AWOL is to have education on a social issue and learn about it through those pre-trip meetings and have a meaningful impact there,” Bollinger said.