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Alternative Spring Break 2017 Detail Image

Members of the Mount Singers and Orchestra in front of the Doheny Mansion before the 'No Ways Tired' Spring Sing concert, in April 2017.

A different take on spring break

A leadership retreat to Yosemite National Park. Community service projects in the heart of Los Angeles. Environmental science research in the Pacific Ocean. Mount Saint Mary’s students and faculty know there is more than one way to take advantage of spring break.

From L.A. to Yosemite  
The idea for the Yosemite adventure was born out of the Mount Weekender program, an initiative of the University's Student Programming & Commuter Services (SPCS) office, and organized in partnership with the Mount's Sports & Wellness team. "This trip enabled students to learn about environmental sustainability, gain a real connection to nature and participate in different wellness activities," said Faraah Mullings, SPCS director.

The experience also included conversations on the four components of the current Mount Wellness campaign: moving more, eating green, de-stressing and sleeping well. Best of all, students stayed in Half Dome Village, hiked to Yosemite Falls, explored Yosemite Valley and went stargazing at the park’s famed Tunnel View lookout. “I had an amazing time with all of the ladies that went on the trip,” said April Chagoya ’20. “I had never experienced nature in the way that I did in Yosemite. The park took my breath away.”

In addition to the physical adventures, several students noted the mental and spiritual benefits they got from escaping the noise and busy-ness of everyday life. “The time there offered me a chance for some much-needed quiet and introspection,” said Caitlyn Keeve ’20, in a TEDx talk she gave on campus about her experience. “We spend so much time getting to know others, but how much time do we ever take to get to know ourselves?”

Making a hometown difference  
Serving others was the focus of the Mount’s Alternative Spring Break service experience, which followed on the heels of the University’s student-conceived Social Justice Week. During the break, students dedicated themselves to service across Mount Saint Mary’s hometown, volunteering with organizations like St. Joseph Center and the Space Place for Youth — nonprofits dedicated to serving and empowering homeless individuals in Los Angeles.

“We also learned about the key issues that often cause people to become homeless, and learned about the need for policies and laws that make a real difference,” said Susan Cacique ’17.  

They did so by spending time on Skid Row with staff members and clients at the Los Angeles Mission, and by speaking with local leaders such as Molly Rysman, deputy of housing and homelessness for L.A. County. Students also volunteered at Alexandria House, a transitional home for women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. The full week of service was organized through Mount Saint Mary’s Community Engagement team.  

Field research in the Pacific  
Finally, for some of the Mount’s STEM students, spring break meant heading out to the beaches and ocean — and doing some field research on marine life and sustainable ecology. Adriane Jones, PhD, an assistant professor of biological sciences, led a team of students in a week of research on the Pacific Ocean and on Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles.

Students had the chance to participate in undergraduate research projects on environmental sustainability at the Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina, partnering with fellow students and faculty of the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. On International Women’s Day, the Mount’s students were snorkeling in a Marine Protected Area in the Pacific. The following day, they were studying aquaponics and other sustainable farming methods.

“This is something we do regularly,” Jones said. “It’s all about having real-world opportunities to take what you learn in the classroom and apply it in the field.”

Check out a photo album of the Mount’s 2017 Alternative Spring Break trips on Facebook


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