Fighting the elements to save the environment

Keene State College students tough it out as they worked to repair the Gulf Coast

Kaylee Hunkins
Multimedia Director


In the gulf coast, KSC students dealt with pouring rain, humidity, snakes, insect bites, hypothermia, mud, sun, and lizards; all of which were hardships bought on by an environment they were trying to save.

A group of 12 KSC students, all females, opted out of a traditional spring break and chose an Alternative.

Driving for 24 hours and destined for Destin, Florida the girls arrived and were ready for some community service.

Waking up at 6:30 a.m. everyday they prepared themselves for a day to help save the environment.

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For the first three days of the projects they built oyster reefs volunteering along side with the University of Connecticut.KSC junior Jessica Hoh said the most important part was working together.

“You need to work hard and work as a team to protect nature and the world around us because it can be gone super quick and it takes a long, long time to rebuild it,“ Hoh said.

On Monday students spent the day in the rain, causing one student to become hypothermic, while bagging oysters and setting them aside to be placed in the water near shorelines for a later date.

On Wednesday the group did a similar project but it was with fossilized oyster shells and rain was not the issue, the humidity was.

However, the humidity and rain did not stop the student volunteers.

On Tuesday the students got to see what the entire oyster bagging process was actually doing.

KSC sophomore Laura Judge said this was the day she felt was most influential because she got to see the whole process.

“We put the bags of oysters into the water it was good to see a combination of what we were doing, seeing where it goes and how it affects the environment that it is placed in,” Judge said.

The students volunteered for Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) of Northwest Florida State College. According to the CBA website The purpose for building these oyster reefs, whether its was with actual oyster shells or with fossilized oysters, is to create a natural way to reduce erosion, sustain natural coastal processes and shoreline dynamics, maintain land-to-water access for property owners, as well as aquatic and terrestrial organisms, trap, retain and cycle storm water runoff and pollutants with a more cost efficient than structural stabilization in low-energy environments.

As the week went on, the twelve women helped restore different areas of the gulf coast.

The students got to see a different type of environment Thursday when they got rid of an invasive species called the popcorn tree.

The students worked once again with UCONN students making an assembly through a swampy wooded area and passed along pieces of the popcorn tree. Some students had to put on waders and were waist deep in swampy water, while others wore high boots and were knee deep in mud.

The last day was one that every student enjoyed. Students worked along side elderly, helping build tables for a nursery.

KSC sophomore Matti Cellucci said she felt Friday was the most influential day. Cellucci said they made six tables for the green house in one day.

“They said that would have taken them three to four weeks. You could just see how happy they were and it was really rewarding for everybody,” she said.

KSC junior Aimee Joyce said this break has opened her eyes to many different possibilities of what kinds of things she can do to help other causes.

Joyce said she gained excitement and wants to continue to travel and help others.

“I really want to be able to go to a different country and do different kinds of community service there. It really made me motivated to want to help more,” Joyce said.

By the end of the week the students realized not only were they doing community service, but also that they had gained a new set of friends. Hoh said that she felt everyone helped make a change to the environment.

“I feel we made a difference in the lives of the people we helped because they could not have done that much work with out our help,” Hoh said.


Kaylee Hunkins can be contacted at


To see video and photos of this trip, go to

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