It was nice stepping out of snowy Boston and into sunny Niceville, FL for our week of service— a week packed with volunteering that introduced us to issues in both the natural environment, and also in the community.
Our week of service with Community Collaborations International took us in many directions. We began our trip by building a fence along Henderson Beach to protect the vegetation and ecosystems along the dunes. We helped bag fossilized oysters for an oyster reef being built in Choctawhatchee Bay and planted irises in a creek to help filter the water. We also spent a day helping organize donations at Opportunity Place, a local shelter that assists struggling communities around Pensacola, and we ended the week by painting a shed and handing out food with the Muscogee Indians at their food pantry. All of these service projects provided us with a deeper understanding of the environmental and social issues that this particular community was working to solve.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was connecting with the people in the community that we were working with. Hearing Cici, the director of Opportunity Place, discuss his beginning with the shelter and his motivation for opening it was truly inspiring. It also helped establish a personal connection to the problems we were trying to solve, which made it stick out even more in our minds.
Though most of us will not forget the people we met and helped, we also will not forget the people we traveled with in our group. Our service only brought us closer together as a team, and when we left Florida, we were sad that our amazing week was over and we were heading back to reality in Boston, but really proud of all of the work we had accomplished.
First-Year versus Senior Perspective
Elizabeth Venere, Journalism, ’14: As a freshman, I am so glad I got to have this experience. I had seen videos about other schools’ Alternative Spring Break programs, and I knew when I went to Emerson I wanted to find something like it. Emerson’s ASB introduced me to so many great people, people who I hope to stay in contact with all four years. I’m also planning to continue with ASB because it was such a positive experience. Through the trip I saw just how the small projects we were doing made the people were helping so grateful. Seeing their reactions made me want to continue participating in these kinds of projects, because the people that dedicate their lives to service like this deserve more helping hands.
Caitlin Bueller, WLP ’11: This week was by far the best experience of my senior year, and the cherry on top of a truly amazing college career. To say that it was life changing is an understatement. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this trip and to meet these amazing people, both inside and outside of the Emerson community. Many of our service projects were led by AmeriCorps members who were stationed at Camp Timpoochee and their presence encouraged me and a few other members of our group to apply for the AmeriCorps NCCC program following graduation. This one week made us realize all of the things we can be doing to help others, and we plan to further these endeavors in the future, something I am personally very excited about. I owe it all to Emerson ASB.