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College Students Spend Spring Break Volunteering At MDC

Mar 16th, 2015 | Category: MDC News

by Lisa D. Mickey

undergraduate students from Appalachian State University

undergraduate students from Appalachian State University

While most other college students on spring break spent last week reveling in the sun and surf at New Smyrna Beach, a group of undergraduate students from Appalachian State University spent the week pulling weeds, hacking down Brazilian pepper and performing a variety of tasks at the Marine Discovery Center.

Those 10 students and one university staff member visited MDC March 9-13, as an “Alternative Service Experience” during the school’s spring break. Appalachian State also brought a group of students to MDC last year from the school’s campus in Boone, N.C.

One of those students, Patrick Sullivan, made his second visit to MDC – this time as a peer leader – guiding his fellow students during the week of volunteer labor at the nonprofit center.

“This is an opportunity for Appalachian State University students to perform community service during our break from classes,” said Sullivan, 20, a public relations major from Asheboro, N.C. “It helps expand your horizons personally and it helps spread the university’s name whenever we help our global and local communities.”

The students traveled by van from the North Carolina mountains to Florida and spent the week in the Coronado United Methodist Church’s youth house, sleeping on couches and on the floor. As it turns out, the church’s youth pastor is an alumna at ASU.

walking to work at MDC

walking to work at MDC

Each day for one week, the group walked to work from the youth house across the North Causeway drawbridge to MDC to perform their duties. And each day, their range of duties spanned from clearing a walking trail, trimming vegetation from the center’s campus, painting a fish tank and photo boards, to carrying soil and filling in holes on the center’s observation mound.

As part of their “alternative” experience, the students maintained a vegetarian diet for a week and monitored their carbon footprint.

“When you eat meat, you increase a carbon footprint because of all the miles that meat has to travel from farm to plate,” explained Sullivan. “At the end of our experience at MDC, we add up the carbon we produced during the trip and in the fall, we’ll plant trees in Boone to offset the carbon that we used.”

The students also opted to “eat at the poverty level” for the week, allowing a total of $6 per person per day for food, said Tori Small, co-peer leader for the trip. The group combined its allotted food money to make bulk purchases at the grocery store, enabling them to stretch their budget to include such dishes as pasta, rice and beans, potatoes and burritos during the week.

“It sounds daunting to have that little money for food, but when we all work together and put our money together, it goes a long way,” said Small, 20, a junior from Raleigh, N.C. “We’ve learned that together, we can all come out of this stronger.”

ASU students, fun on the water

ASU students, fun on the water

Sea Turtles!

Sea Turtles!