Students go to Florida, New York for alternative break service project

Ryan Spoehr, News Editor

Students embarked on a unique experience for their spring break. Two separate student groups went on trips to New York and the Everglades.

After applying, attending an interview and then attending a presentation, students were allowed to go on the trip. There were 13 students that went to New York and 12 that went on the Florida trip.

It was not a typical “vacation” however. Both groups were volunteering. Bill Bessette of Madison Area Technical College Media Relations advised the New York trip. Ellen Hustad, the administration assistant for the college president, advised the group that went to Florida.

The Florida group went to John Pennenkamp State Park and Everglades National Park. At Everglades National Park, the group cleared out invasive plants from the park.

“We worked our butts off at both places,” Hustad said. “They kept us very busy.”

At Pennenkamp park, the group widened a path and cleared a round area to make space for a road. Students also spent time clearing trash from a beach. This wasn’t a typical beach, according to Hustad. It was back in the forest at the park.

“The water rises every year,” Hustad said. “All that garbage gets washed up in those thick areas. We cleaned up an unbelievable amount of garbage.”

The New York trip was focused upon volunteering in an urban environment and September 11 and how it relates to service, according to Spencer White, head of student volunteers.

The group went to Ground Zero, cleaned trash at Central Park, and worked with the New York City Rescue Mission, God’s Love We Deliver, and Good Companion Senior Center.

For Amin Muhammed, the trip was unique. Muhammed, a student at Madison College via the Fulbright Scholarship, went to New York for the very first time. After working with non-profits in his home country of Pakistan, this was an exciting trip for him. He had nothing but positive feelings for the trip.

“The trip was very well organized,” Muhammed said.

The experience itself allowed for both groups to grow. It gave the groups an opportunity to learn as well. The group learned that there is a great need for volunteering, Hustad said.

“(It showed me) how lucky we are,” White said.

Hustad was particularly impressed with the actual team building aspect of the trip. Through getting to know each other, the students were able to bond and help each other complete each task.

“What I’ve told people is that they make me hopeful for the future,” Hustad said. “They’re a great responsible group of people.”