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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Destination program faces student involvement decline

Published November 15th, 2012

Destination program volunteers visit Stillwater, Minn.

Members of the Destination program visited Arcola Mills in Stillwater, Minn. Oct. 26-28 as part of their Destination Regional “Creativity, Sustainability and Preservation.” The group gained valuable information on preserving nature and resources as well as exploring the history of preservation. Members from left to right: Timothy Hackbarth, Danielle Asper, Charmayne Anderson, Molly Breitmun, Elise Koop, Laura Pochardt, Megan Conant, Shanna Thomsen, Lauren Johnson, Candace Anderson and Tasha Petryczkiewycz. (Photo courtesy of Shanna Thomsen)

Despite its success at UW-River Falls in the past, the Destination program, which is a volunteer program that sends students on local, domestic and international service trips, has lost volunteers. As a result of the shortage, two branches of the service programs were cut this year.

The Serve N’ Lead (SNL) program, which aimed at getting first-year students involved in volunteering locally, was canceled.

Destination International, which was set to bring students to Nicaragua, was also canceled this year. This was surprising due to the fact that there were two international trips made last year.

Staff of the program have not been able to pinpoint why this year is any different than in the past, but they do have some ideas.

“Maybe they have to work more to support themselves through college so they can’t commit to paying that much money or taking that time off of work,” said Student Destination Programmer Cailin Turner.

Cost was the main factor in the cancellation of the international trip to Nicaragua. Shanna Thomsen, also a student Destination programmer was organizing the trip. Thomsen said they started accepting applications last spring, but that four of five students who were accepted decided to drop out for financial reasons. She said that despite what students think, there are still ways to make it work.

“For funding for my trips I’ve just been basically working a lot, which I know is hard for people. But we have had people [in the past] send out our fundraising letter and get their whole trip paid for,” said Thomsen.

On the other hand SNL, which was a new program at UWRF, would have been free for students. Melissa Johnson, a senior elementary education major, was supposed to lead student SNL volunteers to help out Habitat for Humanity at the Eco Village in River Falls. Johnson said that she had been looking forward to the program.

“I’ve always been involved in service so I wanted to get first-year students involved in that too and get them excited about doing service,” said Johnson.

Johnson agreed with Turner that pinpointing the exact reason for lower involvement in the program has been difficult. The marketing for the Destination program was the same this year as it was in the past.

Johnson indicated that they put up posters, table tents, advertisements on access TV and even had resident assistants pass out applications to first-year students.

For Johnson, the experience Destination offers is invaluable.

“People don’t realize what its like until they get there, and it really makes you think about the things we take for granted here,” said Johnson.

For now, Destination staff are going to continue marketing the program in the same way for next year. They hope to see a rise in student involvement in the program so that both Destination International and SNL can continue in the future.

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