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Alternative fall break programs offer students the chance to learn through service

Two groups immersed themselves in the North Carolina cities of Asheville and Boone as they had hands-on experiences in education and sustainability. 

Students at Turtle Island show their excitement for the trip. 

By Emily Hill '18

Two groups of Elon students had to opportunity to leave their comfort zones while spending fall break conducting service-learning activities ranging from tree-chopping and cutting firewood on Turtle Island Preserve near Boone, N.C., to hiking and working in the garden with an Art Space Charter School in Asheville, N.C.

The students on the Turtle Island trip had the opportunity to detach from their external surroundings and “rough it” without electricity, running water and the modern luxuries they are accustomed to. The trip members grew close because they had the opportunity to disconnect from typical relationship-building distractions while bailing hay, tending to livestock, constructing shelters and preparing food as a team.

Students show off the pumpkins they picked at Turtle Island. 

Olivia Kinsella '20, leader of the Turtle Island trip, felt gratitude for the goal-setting lessons and philosophies taught by Eustace Conway, the trip mentor. 

“This alternative break inspired future service and leadership efforts here at Elon because it impacted each and every one of the participants in a positive way,” said Olivia. “No one was ready to leave and return back to Elon when the break was over, and we have all talked about going back again.”

Julianna Volpini and other volunteers on the Catawba Fall hike. 

Turtle Island Preserve is known for programs that guide people in experiences with nature and positive lifestyle practices. The students on this program enjoyed a hiatus from the stresses of academic and social college life while making new friends and helping the environment along the way.

The students on the Asheville program had a different and equally rewarding experience working with a charter school in the Asheville area. They had firsthand interactions with teachers and students and hiked the Catawba Fall and Lookout Mountain.

Julianna Volpini Costa '20, a first-time participant in an alternative fall break program, shared her trip experience and her initial motivation for participating.

Students volunteering with the children at ArtSpace Charter School. 

“I decided to go on this alternative break because I wanted to learn more about the arts-integrated curriculum and how the students benefited from it,” she said. “I also wanted to do something out of my comfort zone and I ended up meeting amazing people I would’ve never crossed paths with!”

Art Space is a school that offers the K-8 education with an integrated visual and performing arts approach. Elon students helped teach the children invaluable lessons for the future.

Both groups woke up early and worked hard each day to make the most of the short break. They came back to Elon with a newfound outlook on leadership and service-learning.

Emily Hill,
10/30/2017 3:10 PM