Finding the key to recycling memories for a lifetime

Students have an unforgettable spring break in  the sunshine state

 

Emily Davidson-Toman

Contributing Writer

 

As a senior, I wanted my last Spring Break to be an experience that I would never forget. Spending my week at home working didn’t appeal to me, but I didn’t have the money to travel and stay in a hotel for a week. I was determined to find something inspirational to do, and I decided I wanted to do something that I had never done before, something that would take me out of my comfort zone–so I chose to go on Alternative Spring Break in Florida City, Fla.

My trip leaders, senior Chelsea Bachand and sophomore Sean Ballard, led our trip with 13 additional members to Florida City,  where we did community service in three different areas for five days.  Our trip was 28 hours long, so we stopped at Myrtle Beach, S.C. for a night as our half-way point. In Myrtle Beach we caught up on sleep since we had driven through the night. We were able to visit the boardwalk and Broadway at the Beach, a popular tourist attraction. The first day we visited BIG Cypress National Park in South Florida. We met with Ranger Andrew, who had us do trail maintenance on some of the area’s most popular trails.

Contributed photo / Emily davidson-toman Keene State College students pose in Florida City, Fla. during their conservation efforts in the area, picking up trash and debris that people toss away every day.

Contributed photo / Emily davidson-toman
Keene State College students pose in Florida City, Fla. during their conservation efforts in the area, picking up trash and debris that people toss away every day.

We used clippers and saws to clear pathways throughout the trail and got rid of excessive plants and trees. We cleared a total of a mile of the trail and made it easier for visitors to travel through.

The second day we visited the Everglades National Park. We met Ranger Kevin and worked with the maintenance staff to remove buildup of soil and debris on the side of the road by the entrance of the park. We used shovels, edgers and rakes to clean up the side of the road and make it more appealing and presentable to the visitors. We were also mistaken for convicts on this job site. On Wednesday, our team headed back to the Everglades National Park and helped Ranger Collin work in the Hole-in-the-Donut area to get rid of the Brazilian Pepper, an invasive plant. We helped remove this plant along with other exotic plants in the area.

While performing this job, we had to stay on the constant look out for fire ant hills, ants that bite so many times it feels like fire, venomous snakes and poisonous plants.

On Thursday and Friday we headed to Biscayne National Park and met Ranger Dan. He took us on exhilarating boat rides toward The Florida Keys. We were dropped off in the ocean and waded our way to land. We helped clean up trash on islands to help preserve the lives of sea turtles. We learned that many sea turtles die from eating balloons, mistaking them for their favorite food, jellyfish. They are unable to digest balloons and end up dying from starvation. We removed a 500 lb oil tank that was pushed onto the island by Hurricane Sandy. Our team did service from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. all five days; but we had time to partake in recreational activities. We visited Miami for a night, went on a swamp tour in the Everglades and visited a local fruit market called Robert is Here, which is famous for its fruit smoothies and milkshakes !

During our down time, our team did nightly reflections held by our leaders, and we were able to bond and became a family. At the hostel we stayed in, we were able to make family dinners, sit by a campfire and relax near the waterfall. We met many interesting people that were staying at the hostel as well, and some had a permanent residence there. I took so much out of this Spring Break trip, and I know my teammates can say the same. This trip was inspirational, life changing, and unforgettable. We all took risks, faced our fears and even overcame multiple challenges on the way.

Many teammates faced sicknesses from the stomach flu, sun poisoning and sleep deprivation, but we pulled through as a group and together gave back to the community of the Florida Everglades. I made so many friendships that I know I will hold onto even after I graduate in May. I can also say that I have learned so much about what is going on in the world outside of Keene.

The amount of garbage people litter is indescribable, and I can honestly say I will never litter again. If you want to go on a trip where you make unforgettable memories and everlasting friendships, Alternative Spring Break is highly suggested.