Nine Oglethorpe students chose to spend their spring break volunteering at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Tallahassee, Fla., as part of an alternative spring break trip sponsored and funded by the Center for Civic Engagement.
Alternative Break Ambassador Shanice Chesney ’17 and trip leaders Brad Firchow ’19 and LeBreshia Taylor ’18 planned Oglethorpe’s first environmentally-focused alternative spring break, which also included Precious Buddington, Sindy Chavez, Max Hannon, Amani Moore, Daniela Ramon, Fanny Flores Rivera, and Serlin Singh. Staff members Rebecca Stewart, student activities coordinator, and Shane Pruitt, alumni relations manager, accompanied the group.
Previously, alternative breaks had focused solely on humanitarian-based volunteering, but trip leaders decided to create another option for the Oglethorpe community.
“We found that there’s a real need for volunteers in environmental causes, because so often it’s forgotten,” explained Brad Firchow.
The St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and the Florida Trail Association work together to maintain 1,300 miles of trails. During their week at the refuge, the students were able to clear three miles of trails and rebuild a footbridge essential for regular trail maintenance. Local senior citizens, members of the local Florida Trail Association chapter, currently maintain the trails, but the original bridge was narrow and made crossing the bridge with tools very difficult for the volunteers. The new bridge also allows hikers to access the trails more easily.
The students enjoyed the opportunity they had to give back to an environmental cause, to bond with one another, and “become one with nature.”
“When the first hikers we saw on the trail said ‘thank you,’ it really reflected that what we were doing had a purpose,” said LeBreshia. “Overall, this trip helped me to understand the importance of environmental issues and how they can affect us in the long run.”
With the continued need for trail upkeep and volunteers, the trip leaders hope to continue the relationship with St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and return for future alternative breaks. Find out more about Oglethorpe’s civic engagement efforts.