I couldn’t quite remember the last time I’d slept in bunk beds, but there they were, almost foreshadowing the week ahead with their forest green sheets and wooden planked frames. Staying in a hostel for a week was something new for me, an experience I had yet to cross off my list of “things to do” before time runs out.
I, along with nine Salt Lake Community College students and two advisors, spent a week in Seattle, Washington for an “Alternative Spring Break” trip. The trip, run through the Thayne Center for Service and Learning, is a program developed to provide students with “immersion into an intensive volunteer and travel experience.”
Four months ago, I interviewed Linnie Spor, Service Leadership Coordinator of the Thayne Center, about these service expeditions for another article that was published in The Globe student newspaper. My interests were piqued- an opportunity to venture into the realm of environmental sustainability and learn more about the non-profits that serve the area.
$350 later, I was signed up for the program.
Once we arrived in Seattle, I immediately grasped that the city was in no shortage of culture and history. Our group took a tour of Underground Seattle, where brick retaining walls were built once upon a time to combat the tides that would flow in twice daily from the Puget Sound. How fascinating – a city that was literally built on top of the remnants of the old city. Highly recommended; everyone in our group enjoyed exploring the quiet remains that lie under the lively metropolis above.
After we got to work on our projects, the constant rain didn’t slow our efforts in pulling invasive plant species Blackberry and English Ivy that compete with trees for space in the dense forest. Once the ivy finds a nice tree to grow on, the tree becomes stressed and begins to die. The group did our best to help Earth Corps, a non-profit that has community-based environmental restoration at its core, strategically remove as many of the plants as possible within the forested area we worked in.
St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with the planting of 121 oak and western red cedar trees along Snoqualmie River, with non-profit Mountains To Sound Greenway, an organization that helps protect and preserve the area for public benefit. Upon reflection, post-service project back at the hostel, the words I heard collectively were ‘rewarding’, ‘inspiring’, and ‘rebirth’. Afterwards, I rested in my bunk and drifted off in my forest green sheets.
A perfectly fitting project, to say the least.
Our last excursion was a trip up Little Si Mountain, about 45 minutes outside of Downtown Seattle, to help rebuild and restore hiking trails. It took six hours for our group to move four boulders, weighing anywhere from 250 to 1,000 lbs., to a designate the path of the trail.
All in all, I was very impressed by the people I had the opportunity to spend this rewarding experience with. Such ambitious, informed, civically engaged members of the SLCC community never cease to amaze me, each with their own individuality and distinctive charisma, day in and day out.
By the end of the trip, I had added memories, like listening to a back alley party be broken up by the police via loudspeaker and pulling a boulder out of a mountain, onto my list of “things to do.” I never want to forget my experience staying in a hostel; the bunk beds, the steamy heater that would shut off suddenly in the night and most importantly, the fond memory of my green, green sheets.
I came home from Seattle enlightened and hopeful for the future, with a sincere appreciation for the environment that we live in. Our service projects were beneficial and impactful, in part of a larger effort to sustain the environment.
I wanted to express a deep sense of gratitude towards the Thayne Center for Service and Learning for making the Alternative Spring Break Trips possible, not only for me, but also for all involved with the Seattle and Kanab groups. Your dedicated vision to empowering students and faculty to realize they have what it takes to make positive changes in their community is commendable and worthy.
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes