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Destinations students focus on social issues during spring break

March 11, 2010

Fifty-three UW-River Falls students and staff members are traveling across the United States during spring break to partake in service projects sponsored by the Destinations program.

All service groups are student led and focus on diverse social issues.

Two service groups are headed to Atlanta, Ga. The first group, led by Hannah Wortz, will be dealing with urban issues and the state’s public education system. The other group, guided by Jake Benesh, will be helping with disaster relief from the floods in 2009 in that area.

The group traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio, led by Christa Hoel, will be dealing with poverty and homelessness.

Tiffany Lay will be taking the fourth service group to Bolder Creek, Calif. to Camp Campbell, an environmental science camp where the group will serve as camp counselors to fifth and sixth graders from the San Jose area.

The fifth and final group, led by Kayla Rasmussen, will be traveling to Kiln, Miss. to volunteer at a therapeutic riding center, Gaits to Success, where people with disabilities get to ride horses as a means of therapy.

Christa Hoel, the Destinations programmer, believes these trips are important for UWRF students to experience.

“These trips provide a great opportunity for students to get involved and learn about social issues that are happening all over the United States,” she said. “It’s really important because we educate people on issues and we help them connect that the issues that are happening in Cincinnati, like poverty and homelessness, are right here in River Falls too.

It really helps students gain a bigger perspective of social issues and help them to become more active members in our community.”

According to the Falcon 411 news flyer, these trips are designed to provide students with a challenging and fun opportunity to lead and learn through active service experiences. The flyer also states that participants will learn about the host community’s assets and how to build on those strengths, make new friendships and bring their experiences back to campus to share.

The planning for these trips started this past summer, according to Hoel.

“In the summer we were researching what kinds of issues we should be serving with,” she said. “We wanted to really focus on the social issue, not where we go but who we are serving. We want to really make sure we have a variety of issues within our destination trips so people have a variety in choosing who they want to serve.”

The Destinations program has been at UWRF for five years. The national program, Break Away, has been present since 1991, according to Hoel. Break Away was founded by Michael Magevney and Laura Mann, two Vanderbilt University students, according to the Break Away Web site.

According to its Web site, Break Away is a national “nonprofit organization that supports the development of quality alternative break programs by providing training and information primarily to colleges, universities, and nonprofit organizations interested in creating lifelong active citizens through these intensive service-learning programs.”

Break Away currently has a network of over 100 chapter schools, more than 400 nonprofit partners and hundreds of individual members worldwide, through which constituents have access to the newest ideas and a broad range of support in the national alternative break movement, according to their Web site.

The group leaders have some desired outcomes of their participants of these service trips. Benesh hopes his participants gain a new outlook on life and a new drive for service.

Lay’s main goal for the week is for her participants to be positive influences on the campers and provide a fun and safe place for the campers.

Rasmussen’s goals include educating her group on assisting people with disabilities by using a form of animal therapy and expanding their horizons as well as her own by stepping out of their comfort zones.

Hoel also has a goal for all the participants, leaders and staff members involved in the Destinations program.

“We would love to have 53 active citizens by the end of the year, meaning they are active within their community,” Hoel said. “We also hope that they will live their lives with a passion to serve others.”