Over spring break this year, the Alternative Week of Off-Campus Learning (AWOL) is offering an alternative break that combines the social issues of domestic abuse and the environment.
Site leader Brianna Zimmer said the newly combined trip will be partnering with local organizations and community partners in the Sioux Falls, Yankton and Vermillion areas.
“I’d say that this is an experience that you’re not really going to get anywhere else,” Zimmer said. “It’s a really affordable way for you to experience a new place within the United States and get that hands-on volunteering experience.”
With the threat of COVID-19, parts of the alternative break will be held virtually. Other aspects of the break include making tie blankets for domestic abuse shelters.
In order to partake in the spring break alternative trip, there is a $125 fee.
Rachel Sestak, the creative director for AWOL, encourages everyone to take advantage of the opportunities and learning experiences that AWOL offers. Along with gaining an understanding of social issues in communities around the United States, Sestak said students also gain other lifelong benefits.
“You meet such a great group of people when you’re in AWOL,” Sestak said. “When you go on these alternative breaks you get to collaborate with your 12 people throughout the week and they become some of your best friends.”
Another site leader, Christina Lusk, said to get involved in the alternative breaks because they leave a big impact on students’ lives.
Lusk, Zimmer and Sestak all remember one break they went on that left the biggest impression on them.
For Lusk, it was her trip to Puerto Rico where she built adobe houses and helped with maintenance on a farm. She said this was her favorite trip because she was able to see a whole different culture of the United States.
When Zimmer went on a break to New Orleans, she got to experience what life was like for people from a big city. As a South Dakota native, Zimmer hadn’t been able to interact and hear stories from people from other states and cities until traveling to New Orleans on an AWOL break.
In Denver, Sestak learned about drug abuse and homelessness. By going on this trip, Sestak was able to put a face to the social issue instead of seeing it as some abstract concept.
While over spring break, AWOL is offering an alternative break that explores the social issues of domestic abuse and the environment. They are also offering two summer trips that will delve into the topics of rural resilience and conservation.
“I would encourage anybody to be a part of AWOL because when will be the next time you are going to have the opportunity to do a trip like this?” Lusk said.