Tuesday, March 05, 2013

UIS students to spend Alternative Spring Break cleaning up Everglades National Park

A group of students from the University of Illinois Springfield will spend their spring break helping to remove invasive plant and animal species from Everglades National Park in Florida. Students will help staff remove the unwanted species threatening wildlife, clean trails, and assist with light construction.

A total of 28 UIS students and 2 staff members will leave Springfield on Saturday, March 9 at 1 p.m. and return to campus on Sunday, March 17 between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. While in Florida, students will reside in a hostel, make their own meals, and volunteer at the park during the day. The overall goal is to help recreate an environment that is safe for plants and animals alike.

“We’ve been trying to go on this trip for a while, and we’ve finally accomplished our goal,” said Paige Heiser, a student volunteer and President of the UIS Alternative Spring Break group. “This volunteer trip is unique, it’s not the typical garbage clean-up or home restoration. This project is more about sustainability, and because of that we’ve attracted more Biology and Chemistry majors.”

Alternative Spring Break at UIS is a student-driven effort. The students choose the location, organize the logistics, and raise necessary funds. Students fill out applications to go on the trip and must be dedicated.

“Many of the students on this year’s trip are interested in ecology and sustainability. Those are issues that are only going to become more important in their lifetimes. It’s great to see students connecting their interests to action, and it’s always inspiring to see students willing to spend their break in such a selfless way.” said Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer & Civic Engagement Center.

The UIS Alternative Spring Break student organization was formed in 2009 when students took their first trip to Louisiana to help build homes for Habitat for Humanity following Hurricane Katrina. The following year, students traveled to Texas to help clean up damage from Hurricane Ike. In 2011, the students traveled to Tennessee to help clean up portions of the Mississippi River. Last year, the students helped rebuild homes damaged by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav in New Orleans.

For more information on Alternative Spring Break, contact Mark Dochterman, director of the UIS Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center at 217/206-8448 or email mdoch2@uis.edu.

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