Monday, March 21, 2011

UIS students spend spring break cleaning up the Mississippi River

A group of 21 University of Illinois Springfield students and 2 advisers spent their spring break helping to clear trash and other debris from the Mississippi River.

The students spent nearly a week in Memphis, Tenn. as part of an annual Alternative Spring Break trip. The volunteers spent their time picking up trash by boat and on land with the help of the nonprofit environmental organization Living Lands & Waters.

“Picking up trash doesn’t sound very exciting, but I’ve never had that much fun in my life, just picking up trash before,” said Paige Heiser, a UIS freshman.

UIS students worked with other college students from around the country to remove debris (tires, appliances, barrels, etc.) that are polluting the rivers and impairing the habitat of indigenous fish, birds, and wildlife.

“It was just really cool because you had all these different people from all these different groups and getting to know everyone was great,” said Eric Reuss, a UIS freshman.

In 2009, students took their first Alternative Spring Break trip to Mandeville, Louisiana to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity following Hurricane Katrina. The following year, students traveled to Galveston, Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008.

“The experience was actually kind of fun because for the past couple of years we’ve gone to places where we built houses, so this was kind of a new experience,” said Kudus Ogunseye, vice president of the Alternative Spring Break student organization.

For more information on Alternative Spring Break, contact the Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center at or call 217/206-7716.

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