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UWRF students spend break serving communities

April 9, 2009

Nine students from UW-River Falls participated in a multi-state community service trip that took place during spring break.

The students that took part in the trip were members of the Falcon Fellows program on campus, which is a collaboration of two different organizations: AmeriCorps and UWRF Student Support Services. Students who join Falcon Fellows agree to do 300 hours of community service throughout the year.

During the trip, they had the opportunity to log hours while helping others. The group from UWRF met up and traveled with another student group from Dickinson State University in North Dakota. The group left for the first service location on March 13, and returned to River Falls on March 22.

Gina Sevick, Falcon Fellows coordinator, traveled along with the students from UWRF. She said that there were other student groups from different universities across the country that also departed on community service trips that were also part of the “Pay it Forward Tour.”

“There were a bunch of buses that all left from different universities across the nation, and they all were feeding into either Washington D.C., Memphis, Tenn. or Houston, Texas, and at the end of the week they all convened into one of those bigger cities,” Sevick said.

Sevick said that the group did work in Minnesota, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky and Iowa, and that they spent a day doing community service at each site on the route towards their destination in Memphis.

Michelle Meyer, UWRF junior and conservation major, is one of the students who took part in the trip. She said also that the group left on Friday March 13 and stopped at the first service location in Minneapolis, Minn. to help with a bridging program.

“When we went to Minneapolis, we did some bridging which is like building furniture or collecting furniture for people who are homeless or immigrants or other people who are less fortunate,” she said.

Meyer said that group spent the day after in Oak Park, Ill. in an effort to remove a plant species which had grown over the other flowers and vegetation.

“The next day we went to Oak Park, Ill., which I found very interesting because I am a conservation major, we went to this big park area, like this wooded area and we got to cut down all of the Asian honey suckle that was an invasive species and was invading the tree land area,” she said.

Meyer said they spent time in Canton, Ohio later in the trip, helping with activities and lessons in a kindergarten classroom.

Sevick said that there was a leadership corps on the bus that was made up of students who organized the service locations of each day. A travel routine was established and at the end of each day they stayed at either a church or a YMCA.

“We would get up early in the morning get ready and by probably 7 or 8 a.m. we’d be at our site. We would do our service pretty much all day and afternoon until maybe about one or two and then we would have a meal. A lot of times we would have meals with the community members on the site that we worked with and then we would get on the road to the next place,” she said. “So we would then head to the next service state and hook up with a YMCA or church, stay there overnight and then do the same kind of thing.”

In Lexington, Ky., Meyer said that the group did community service at a food bank and they also did service at a church where they cleaned out an office and inventoried furniture.

“We found out later on that what we did inventory o n was going to go to houses that the church just bought and that the people we had talked to previously that day were going to actually get the furniture,” she said. “So that was very inspirational to us.”