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ASB Group Takes on the Environment West-Coast Style

By: Amanda Rivera
Posted: April 7, 2008

PHOTO: Alternative Spring Break TripEven before Junior Dietetics major Jacqui Peworchik had enrolled at JMU, plans for spring breaks to come were already in the works.  After hearing former participants of the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program recount their stories to her high school, Jacqui knew that she wanted to be a part of the experience.  Attending a trip her sophomore year, she chose to lead a group the following spring break.  Looking through the trip options, Jacqui and her co-leader chose an environmentally-focused trip set for Catalina Island, California.  “We both really wanted to do something we had never done before,” she says.

Working with the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (CELP), the JMU group was assigned to projects that would help set up a camp for an incoming group of school-aged children.  “It’s [CELP] actually a profit organization working with a non-profit organization.  Seventy-five percent of the island is owned by a conservancy, which is why there’s very few cities…The rest of the island is under rules and guidelines to keep it very green and preserved.”  It was this “green” environment that took some adjusting to as the students travelled through the island on unpaved roads spending 45 minutes en route to travel a mere 5 miles by car.  Some members of the group were also thrown off keel by the appearance of the cove. “I was surprised the water was kind of…full of stuff, which we later on learned was kelp, which is well-known over there.  We learned all about the cycle with photosynthesis and how it feeds everything in the cove,” says Jacqui.

PHOTO: Alternative Spring Break TripAlongside their lessons on native marine life, the students were also instructed on environmental tactics employed to preserve the island.  “On the second day, we learned how to compost, which very few people knew how to do…which was really interesting and I think is important for the future…But the thing about that is it’s hard to bring back to JMU because you can’t compost in your apartment, which is where a lot of JMU students live,” Jacqui says.  Utilized for such simple, yet strenuous tasks as weeding and planting, the Dietetics major says, “They haven’t had a group of fifteen college students that could do a lot in the past two years, so we did a lot of big jobs…A lot of the things didn’t mean a lot to us, but in the long run, they were really thankful.”

PHOTO: Alternative Spring Break TripInterspersed throughout the day between their work sessions, the students were allowed some downtime which they wholeheartedly embraced with scuba-diving, kayaking and hiking.  Looking back at the trip, Jacqui remembers the hike as especially memorable saying, “About an hour and a half into the hike we had climbed to the highest point of where we were on the island and it was absolutely gorgeous.”  Keeping busy all day, the students were grateful for the selection of food offered by the camp.  Consistent with the environmentally-friendly theme, the ASBers were given organic foods, with each meal consisting of a vegetarian option.  The selections were so enticing that two participants omitted meat from their diet for the whole week.  “Being a Dietetics's major, it was awesome to see a vegetarian option offered at each meal. The vegetarian substitute was often even better tasting then the non-vegetarian choice,” Jacqui says.

PHOTO: Alternative Spring Break TripComing back to the East Coast, the trip co-leader only has positive words to describe her time spent in Catalina.  She says, “I don't think that anyone can know what to expect going into an Alternative Spring Break trip but they will be guaranteed an experience they will never forget.”  Jacqui also admits that her decision to try something new was affirmed in the lessons she learned from the trip.  “The environment trip we went on to Catalina Island, California definitely forced the realization that we as humans don't own this beautiful land...This earth owns us and provides us with everything we need to survive, we share it with many other plants and animals and we have no right to abuse it,” she states.