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Destination connects students to each other, with communities

April 11, 2013

Every year a number of UW-River Falls students travel across the country volunteering their time over spring break, and many of them stay in the program year after year.

This is one of the common things about the Destination program that the Elise Koop, Shanna Thomsen and Cailin Turner, the managers of the program, all talked about.

The program gets a high number returning people every year and there is always a mix that varies from students doing the program for the first time and students who have been participating every year they have been in school.

“Once you do it, you’re hooked,” Turner said.

The Destination Domestic program has been around since 2006 when it sent students to Gulfport, Miss., and has grown in numbers ever since. The domestic program of Destination sends students on trips across the country over spring break. This year 45 students were spread on four trips all concentrating on different themes. Twenty four of those students were returning members.

The different trips were in Cincinnati, where students learned about poverty and homelessness; Apopka, Fla., where students learned about immigration;Maryville, Tenn., where students learned about Native American culture; and Moab, Utah, where students learned about the environment, according to the Destination website.

This year there was also a student documentary film crew that traveled with the group to Maryville, Tenn.

“Destination is all about changing perspective to see growth,” Koop said.

All the trips have a different focus that appeals to everyone.

“It is a great time no matter where you go,” said Michaela McCoy, a three-time participant in the program and trip leader to Cincinnati this year.

“In the school year I feel like I am concerned about myself a majority of the time but this trip gives me a break to help somebody else,” McCoy said.

Tim Emahiser, four time participant and trip leader to Moab, Utah, said he feels like he would just be sitting around at home if he did not do anything for spring break. He sees Destination as an affordable way to go somewhere over spring break and do something productive.

Another important aspect of the Destination program is the bond formed between the students. Koop said that students meet beforehand to start planning the trip and getting to know each other. The real bond starts when they car pool together.

“The road trips are a lot of fun and you meet a lot of cool people. All week relationships are built and it becomes a second family for the week,” McCoy said.

Emahiser said that as a freshman he went to Atlanta and really connected with people and that this year it was fun to be the trip leader and orchestrate that connection within his group.

On April 14 all of the participants in the program will be coming together for a celebration of what the program has done this year. This will take place in the University Center ballroom between 6 and 9 p.m., where a video will be shown, and stories from every trip will be shared. Koop, Turner and Thomsen all said that everyone is invited and encouraged to come see what Destination is all about.

“I just encourage students to look out for us at involvement fairs and around campus and think about coming next year, you won’t regret it,” said Koop.